Healthy Lifestyle Choices Help Prevent Dementia

May 26, 2019 Providence Health Team

If you’ve ever forgotten someone’s name or the reason you entered a room, you may have wondered if it was simple forgetfulness or a sign of something more serious like dementia.

Dementia is different than forgetfulness. Dementia is a disorder that reduces how well your brain functions. It affects your ability to think clearly, solve problems and remember things. With dementia, your personality can change and you may not be able to control your emotions. In severe cases, the disorder can take away your ability to care for yourself. No one knows exactly what causes dementia and there is currently no cure.

Luckily, it’s not all doom and gloom. Research shows that healthy lifestyle choices can make a real difference in holding off dementia and its impact on your daily life.

Here are some suggestions.

Feed your body, feed your brain

There is not a specific “brain health diet” but eating a well-balanced diet not only nourishes your body, but it also helps keep your brain working at top capacity.

Gone fishing

Eating foods that are high in omega-3 fatty acids like sardines, salmon or tuna controls blood clotting, protects against brain atrophy, and slows dementia. Try adding this type of fish to your diet once or twice a week to get the maximum benefit.

Take your vitamins

Vitamins and minerals play an important role in maintaining a healthy nervous system and brain. Be sure you’re taking plenty of vitamin C, folic acid, and vitamin E in your mix of daily supplements to give your brain the maximum advantage.

Visit the Mediterranean

Eating a Mediterranean diet can help lower your risk of dementia. This means little red meat, lots of whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and limited salt. You may not be able to actually visit the Mediterranean but that shouldn’t stop you from taking advantage of the region’s dietary habits.

An acceptable dine and DASH

Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension, or the DASH diet, is another option for a healthy eating plan that can help diminish the threat of dementia. The DASH diet fills your plate with fruits, veggies, whole grains and lean proteins which can boost your brainpower and improve your mental activity by 30% (when combined with exercise). Not only does this help prevent dementia; it improves your heart health as well.

Give your brain a workout

Everyone knows that exercise can help strengthen your body and improve your health, but what about your brain? Learning new things and stimulating your mind can strengthen your brain cells and improve the way they work together—kind of like a brain push up. Try sudoku, creative writing, or meditation.

Study another language

Learning to speak a new language can delay the onset of dementia, according to several studies. While you’re at it, read up on the customs and traditions of the people whose language you’re studying and expand the benefits you’re getting even further. Who knows, you may even be able to use these new skills on your next trip!

Riddle me this

Games, crossword puzzles and memory exercises help you stay mentally alert and increase your brain’s efficiency. Challenge yourself to stay mentally active in a variety of ways to keep your brain cells strong.

Take a class

Have you always wanted to learn more about ancient Greece? Or maybe it’s time you put your artistic talents to the test in a pottery class. Whatever it is you’re interested in, there’s a class that can teach you more about it. Sign up. Your brain will thank you.

There’s an app for that

A quick browse through your favorite app store shows a wide selection of brain training, memory-boosting, word games available. Not only are they a fun pastime, they can help keep your mind active and mentally stimulated. Choose your favorite and play your way to better brain health.

The body and mind connection

There’s no getting around it—the more you move, the healthier you’ll be. Exercise increases the amount of oxygen in your blood and keeps it flowing freely to your brain. Even a small amount of movement can make a difference. Adding moderate exercise, like a 30-minute walk, three or more times a week nets positive results for your body and your brain.

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