Six Ways to Protect Your Memory
Every June, the Alzheimer’s Association (www.alz.org) sponsors Alzheimer’s & Brain Health Awareness Month. Their aim is to remind us of steps we can take to protect our memory, and to slow the progress of Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia.
Yes, research has proven that there are things we can do to protect our brain health and mitigate the impact of Alzheimer’s and other dementia. Here are six of them:
1. Eat well. Good nutrition is essential for brain health, as is maintaining a healthy weight. Neurologists advise us to eat plenty of fruits, veggies, whole grains, and healthy fats such as those found in fatty fish. We’re told to avoid trans fats, processed foods and added salt.
2. Get enough exercise. Numerous studies have shown that our brains benefit from exercise just as much as the rest of our bodies. One study showed that seniors who exercised for at least 30 minutes a day, three times a week, reduced their risk of vascular-related dementia by 40% and cognitive impairment due to any reason by 60%. So make the effort. Go for a walk. Work out to an exercise video. Lift hand weights while you watch TV or listen to music.
3. Stay socially connected. This one is important in two ways. Interacting with others helps build stronger connections in the brain, and the resilience to delay age-related memory problems. Spending time with others also combats loneliness, a condition that is so stressful for humans that it can damage the brain. If you still want to maintain social distance from others, you can stay in touch with video chatting, social media, frequent phone calls, and properly distanced in-person interactions.
4. Challenge your brain. Just as a couch potato lifestyle is bad for the brain, being a mental couch potato is bad, too. Boredom is stressful in itself. But stimulating the mind with new challenges encourages brain cells to grow, which may ward off dementia or slow the effects. Puzzles, reading and listening to music are all good brain exercise. And novelty—learning something new—is especially beneficial. Stretch yourself mentally!
5. Get enough sleep. We have learned so much about the connection between sleep and brain health over the past few decades. Sleep is the time when our brains file away memories for later use, and clean out waste material, as well. Poor quality sleep substantially raises the risk of Alzheimer’s disease. Practice good sleep hygiene, and if sleep problems persist, consult your doctor.
6. Keep up your healthcare appointments. Things that we do for our body also benefit our minds. Health conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, hypertension and even gum disease are linked with dementia. If you missed a medical or dental appointment because of COVID-19, contact your doctor now. Most likely you will be advised to keep up with your regular care. Your doctor’s office will be taking safety precautions, and you might even be able to make a telehealth appointment.