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IRC Blog

IRC Blog
Posted: Wednesday, January 29, 2020
By: IRC Blog

Reducing your own risk of cognitive decline

As we grow older, not only do our priorities change but so do our thoughts and worries. Each forgotten name or mid-sentence pause can cause many to question what may be happening. Many studies have shown that fear of receiving a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s or dementia ranks second, only behind hearing the news that you have cancer.

But if someone in your family or a close friend is living with a cognitive disease, it’s no doubt that this concern has likely been in the forefront of your mind. Could this happen to you?

As we grow older, not only do our priorities change but so do our thoughts and worries. Each forgotten name or mid-sentence pause can cause many to question what may be happening. Many studies have shown that fear of receiving a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s or dementia ranks second, only behind hearing the news that you have cancer.

But if someone in your family or a close friend is living with a cognitive disease, it’s no doubt that this concern has likely been in the forefront of your mind. Could this happen to you?

You may be wondering if there is anything you can do to reduce your own risk of dementia or Alzheimer’s. Although to date there continues to be no definitive cause nor treatment to prevent or cure the disease, it’s important to realize there are still opportunities to be proactive.

According to Harvard Medical School’s Health Letter, the causes of Alzheimer’s are still unclear. Genes that relate to amyloid-beta production can determine if you’ll have Alzheimer’s in 1% of all cases but for the other 99% it’s believed that there are many contributions. Multiple factors might include age, genetics, medical issues, environment and lifestyle.

But as research and clinical trials continue, there is growing evidence that there may be steps you can take. These tips for making lifestyle changes from the Alzheimer’s Association may reduce your risk for cognitive decline.

10 Ways to Love Your Brain

  1. Break a sweat – studies are finding an association between a reduced risk of cognitive decline and participating in physical activity that elevates your heart rate and increases blood flow.

Research is pointing to a heart-head connection. The same conditions that can increase your risk for cardiovascular disease may extend to the risk of developing Alzheimer’s. Some studies have shown that up to 80% of those with Alzheimer’s also have cardiovascular disease.

  1. Hit the books – education at any age or stage of life may help reduce your risk of cognitive decline.

The exact reason why hasn’t yet been identified, but there is evidence of a benefit for cognitively stimulating activities, although it may prove to be limited to a learned task and not an overall improvement in thinking, according to Harvard’s Health Letter.

  1. Butt out – smoking can increase the risk of a cognitive disease.

Smoking can increase the risk of both vascular problems and developing Alzheimer’s. It’s never too late to enjoy the benefits of quitting, which can also reduce your risk to be comparable to those who don’t smoke.

  1. Follow your heart – risk factors for cardiovascular disease and stroke, such as obesity, high blood pressure and diabetes may also negatively impact your cognitive health. Take steps to be heart healthy where the benefits may also lower your risk of developing Alzheimer’s. It’s a win-win.
  2. Heads up – brain injury can raise your risk of cognitive decline. Wear a seatbelt, use a helmet when playing contact sports or bike riding, prevent falls in your home and pay special attention when you’re out.

There is a strong link between the risk of Alzheimer’s and serious head trauma, especially if there was a loss of consciousness so take steps to protect your head.

  1. Fuel up right – eat a healthy and balanced diet lower in fat and higher in vegetables and fruit.

Limiting sugar and saturated fats while increasing your intake of fruits, vegetables and grains are not only heart healthy but may decrease your risk of developing a cognitive disease. Two diets that have shown promise are the DASH and Mediterranean diets.

  1. Catch some Zzz’s – make sure you’re getting enough sleep. The evidence is mounting regarding the importance of getting a good night’s rest. Insomnia or sleep apnea may cause problems with memory and thinking.

The typical recommendation is to get at least 7 to 8 hours each night. It’s thought that adequate sleep may have an effect on preventing Alzheimer’s because it’s linked to greater amyloid clearance from the brain, according to Harvard’s Health Letter.

  1. Take care of your mental health – there may be a link between depression and an increased risk of cognitive decline.

Speak to your doctor if you are experiencing depression or on-going anxiety as it’s important for both your mental health and possibly lowering your risk of developing Alzheimer’s. Try to manage your stress levels as well.

  1. Buddy up – staying socially engaged may support brain health.

Although not yet evident beyond observational studies, there is a belief that social contact may help in preventing Alzheimer’s. Find ways to participate and be a part of your local community or share activities with friends and family.

  1. – challenge your mind to think strategically.

Although still being studied, there may be short and long-term brain benefits by strategic thinking. Find ways that you can challenge yourself such as completing puzzles, creating art or playing bridge.

Actions you can take

Developing Alzheimer’s or other dementias is life-altering and the impact is felt not only by the one diagnosed but by family and friends as well. Yet we may not be as helpless to reduce our risk as once feared. What we do know is that making these lifestyle changes will also have an effect on other areas of your physical and mental health so there’s truly no downside.

Pay attention to any symptoms but try not to become overly occupied with the fear of developing this disease. There are contributing factors that you have no control over but it can help to know that you’re doing what you personally can to lower your risk.

Ingleside’s Memory Support Assisted Living

We understand the fear and initial panic that accompanies a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s or dementia, including fear of developing the disease yourself. Along with your doctor and medical team, our resources can help you and your family better understand the latest research and treatments for the symptoms. We’re here to help support your approach to a future that can still be meaningful and special.

Please call (202) 905-0018 if you have any questions or would like to schedule a personalized tour today.

 

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