If you’re a senior or you’re taking care of an elderly relative, you may have concerns about dementia. While some factors, like aging and genetics, are beyond our control, many experts believe that lifestyle changes can reduce our risk by as much as 30% or more.
In fact, a recent study found one more way to help our brain stay healthy in our golden years. According to researchers at Yale University, a positive attitude about aging could cut our risk of dementia in half.
They also found that gracefully accepting the aging process worked just as well for seniors with the APOE, a gene that is strongly associated with developing chronic brain conditions.
Dementia is not a normal part of aging, but a set of symptoms that often includes a decline in memory and other daily functions.
Protect ourselves and our loved ones by learning how to embrace aging and develop other healthy habits.
1. Reframe our thoughts. We’re in control of how we respond to situations, so replace negative beliefs with more affirming ones. Learn from setbacks and use hardships to make ourselves stronger and braver.
2. Stay connected. Surround ourselves with family and friends who nurture and encourage us. Ask for help when we need it.
3. Laugh more. Try to see the humorous side of difficult events. Schedule time in our day to play with our grandchildren or watch a funny movie.
4. Advocate for aging. Studies also show that experiencing age discrimination can intensify negative beliefs about aging. Speak up when you see incidents of ageism at work or in the media.
1. Exercise regularly. Aim to work out at least 3 days a week for at least 30 minutes. Exercise can help to protect us from heart disease, stroke, and diabetes, which are some of the most common conditions that raise our risk for dementia.
2. Quit smoking. Using tobacco harms our brains by interfering with our circulation. If we have had trouble giving up cigarettes in the past, try a different method or a combination of approaches.
3. Lose weight. Shedding excess pounds benefits our brain as well as our body. Even a modest 5% loss can have dramatic effects.
4. Limit (eliminate?) alcohol. Heavy drinking makes us more vulnerable to dementia. The Centers for Disease Control recommends no more than one drink a day for women and two for men.
5. Challenge our brain. Exercise strengthens our brain just like lifting weights builds our muscles. Enjoy word puzzles or Sudoku. Study a foreign language or practice playing a musical instrument.
6. Check our hearing. Scientists are discovering more evidence about the link between hearing loss and dementia. Many experts believe that this is because hearing impairment causes social isolation and also makes the brain work harder to process sounds, leaving fewer resources available for other mental activities.
7. Sit less. Prolonged sitting can take its toll on our mental and physical health even if we exercise regularly. The most effective strategy may be to shift positions often among sitting, standing, and walking.
8. Spot early signs. The first visible symptoms of dementia frequently include memory loss, difficulty concentrating, and confusion. Prompt diagnosis and treatment can often delay the onset of further symptoms. Talk with our doctor and get routine checkups.
Stay mentally sharp and active by lowering our risk of dementia. A positive attitude and a healthy lifestyle will give us more years to spend with our loved ones and enjoy our favorite pastimes.
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