One of the most common worries as a person ages is the onset of cognitive decline, such as Alzheimer’s disease or dementia. Although there are currently no cures on the market for either of these diseases, there are a number of ways to change your lifestyle to mitigate your risk factors for future cognitive decline.
- Keep Your Mind Working
First and foremost, don’t just harbor the fear of cognitive disease then spend your time sitting in front of your TV and watching the latest soaps! Doctors at the National Institute of Ageing (NIA) recommend trying to pick up a new skill, or even trying to improve one of the interests you already have in order to keep your mind fresh.
There are a number of classes you can consider that are age appropriate, such as ballroom dancing, knitting, an art class, or even a cooking class. You can also keep your mind working by downloading a few brain teaser apps to your phone or tablet and spending some time on them each day.
Studies have shown that engaging the mind in regular mind puzzles enables seniors to complete tasks on their own for much longer period than those who don’t.
- Take Care Of Your Body
This is a multifaceted step, as taking care of your body includes everything from diet, to sleep, to exercise. As far as exercise goes, numerous studies have shown that elevating your heart rate on a regular basis helps reduce your risk for cognitive decline.
So, it’s time to get up off the couch and take a walk around the block! If that’s beyond your physical abilities, even completing some more strenuous household chores such as vacuuming or gardening can elevate the heart above its normal rate.
It’s also necessary to watch what you are putting into your body. This means everything; your diet, alcohol consumption, or smoking. It’s time to quit smoking and stop drinking alcohol as these habits are directly correlated to an increased risk of cognitive decline.
For your diet, start watching conditions like high cholesterol and high blood pressure, as these are also correlated to the development of Alzheimer’s. Fill your diet with lots of fruits and vegetables and start skipping out on the fried foods. You’ll find you’ll feel better too.
If you aren’t getting more than eight hours of sleep a night, it’s time to start going to bed earlier. If you suffer from difficulty sleeping at night or from something like insomnia, discuss your options with your doctor to start getting better sleep at night—as the amount of sleep you get each night is directly tied to memory function.
- Pay Attention to Your Mental Health
Besides just taking the above steps, you may want to consider cluing your doctor into your concerns about your cognitive health, this way you will have someone to help guide you and alert you to changes you may not notice. A doctor also may be able to suggest other ways to reduce your risk from cognitive decline than those mentioned here.
Another part of caring for mental health that people often overlook is the importance of having a support system. Along with your doctor, clue in a friend or two to your worries, chances are, they may be worried too. If you don’t have a friend to lean on, join a local club, or look into age appropriate meetup in your neighborhood to find like-minded individuals.
Overall, reducing your risk for cognitive decline can be easy as long as you keep your mind busy, body healthy, and support your mental health. Regardless of the steps you take to reducing your risk, it’s important to know that you aren’t alone in your worries and many other people are right there with you.