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 your control, many experts believe that lifestyle changes can reduce your risk by as much as 30% or more.
In fact, a recent study found one more way to help your brain stay healthy in your golden years. According to researchers at Yale University, a positive attitude about aging could cut your risk of dementia in half.
They also found that gracefully accepting the aging process worked just as well for seniors with the APOE 4 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 yourself and your loved ones by learning how to embrace aging and develop other healthy habits.
- Reframe your thoughts. You’re in control of how you respond to situations, so replace negative beliefs with more affirming ones. Learn from setbacks and use hardships to make you stronger and braver.
- Stay connected. Surround yourself with family and friends who nurture and encourage you. Ask for help when you need it.
- Laugh more. Try to see the humorous side of difficult events. Schedule time in your day to play with your grandchildren or watch a funny movie.
- 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.
- Exercise regularly. Aim to work out at least 3 days a week for at least 30 minutes. Exercise can help to protect you from heart disease, stroke, and diabetes, which are some of the most common conditions that raise your risk for dementia.
- Quit smoking. Using tobacco harms your brain by interfering with your circulation. If you have had trouble giving up cigarettes in the past, try a different method or a combination of approaches.
- Lose weight. Shedding excess pounds benefits your brain as well as your body. Even a modest 5% loss can have dramatic effects.
- Limit alcohol. Heavy drinking makes you more vulnerable to dementia. The Centers for Disease Control recommends no more than one drink a day for women and two for men.
- Challenge your brain. Exercise strengthens your brain just like lifting weights builds your muscles. Enjoy word puzzles or Sudoku. Study a foreign language or practice playing a musical instrument.
- Check your 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.
- Sit less. Prolonged sitting can take its toll on your mental and physical health even if you exercise regularly. The most effective strategy may be to shift positions often among sitting, standing, and walking.
- 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 your doctor and get routine checkups.
Stay mentally sharp and active by lowering your risk of dementia. A positive attitude and a healthy lifestyle will give you more years to spend with your loved ones and enjoy your favorite pastimes.