Recently, I lost an older family member due to the horrible effects of Alzheimer's disease. It is a mental disease that runs in my family, along with several others. After talking with people and doing some research, I discovered that Alzheimer's is not uncommon. In fact, it is estimated that over 44 million people worldwide suffer from this form of dementia. Even though there is a natural, normal decline in brain function as we age, there are ways to help slow that process and take preventative measures in order to promote prolonged brain health.
There is a saying that says, "you are what you eat." I have to say that there is truth to this statement. One of the best ways to improve the health of your body is to eat right. There are even particular foods that can boost memory and mental health. Increase your intake of dark leafy greens, blueberries, nuts, fish, and cruciferous vegetables, such as broccoli. Studies have shown that the consumption of these foods are correlated with a lower risk for developing dementia. They also boost memory and concentration. It is also good to avoid red meats and foods that are high in sugar.
Another way to improve brain health is to stay both physically and mentally active. Whichever approach or activity you choose, be sure to engage in exercise on a daily basis. When we exercise, we release hormones, pump oxygen to the brain, and allow for the growth of brain cells. A healthy heart also equals a healthier brain. The brain regions that control thinking and memory are also more dominant in those that exercise regularly. Along with physical exercise, mental exercise is also important. Stay social and make an effort to experience new things and environments. Try to learn something new every day, whether it be a new fact, topic, way of doing something, or an instrument. Instead of staring at a screen or scrolling on a phone, substitute a book or a puzzle instead. Get creative and let your imagination run free through writing, music, or art. All these activities keep the brain stimulated and encourage growth, connection, and new neural pathways.
Lastly, minimize stress in your life. This can be a difficult one, especially if you struggle with anxiety like me. Stress and anxiety can result in excessive cortisol levels and structural degeneration of the brain. Practicing meditation, deep-breathing, and calming techniques reduces stress levels. Meditating can lead to lowered risk of dementia because it causes growth in the regions of the brain that control complex thought and memory.
Although there is not a definite cure or prevention for dementia or Alzheimer's, taking small steps towards a healthier lifestyle can make a huge difference.