As you age, your body and brain undergo changes. There are, however, certain things you can do to assist decrease memory loss and reduce your risk of acquiring Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia. In order of importance, these are five things I recommend to my patients:
1. Maintain a regular exercise regimen.
My first piece of advice to my patients is to continue exercising. Exercise has numerous well-documented benefits, and it appears as though regular physical activity improves the brain as well. Numerous studies demonstrate that physically active individuals are less likely to experience a deterioration in mental function and are at a lower risk of getting Alzheimer’s disease.
These benefits, we believe, are due to increased blood flow to the brain during exercise. Additionally, it appears to offset some of the normal decline in brain connections associated with age, thereby rectifying some of the issues.
Aim to exercise for 30–60 minutes multiple times per week. You can walk, swim, or play tennis, or engage in any other moderate aerobic activity that causes your heart rate to increase.
2. Get adequate sleep.
Sleep is critical for brain health. According to some ideas, sleep helps your brain eliminate aberrant proteins and consolidates memories, which improves your overall memory and brain health.
It is critical to aim for seven to eight hours of uninterrupted sleep per night, rather than fragmented sleep in two- or three-hour chunks. Consecutive sleep allows your brain to efficiently integrate and remember memories. Sleep apnea is detrimental to the functioning of your brain and may be the reason you struggle to get uninterrupted hours of sleep. Consult your physician if you or a family member feels you may have sleep apnea.
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3. Consume a Mediterranean-style diet.
Your diet has a significant impact on the health of your brain. My patients are encouraged to explore a Mediterranean diet, which emphasises plant-based foods, whole grains, fish, and healthy fats such as olive oil. It has significantly less red meat and salt than the average American diet.
According to studies, persons who adhere to a Mediterranean diet religiously are less likely to get Alzheimer’s disease than those who do not. Additional research is necessary to determine which components of the diet have the greatest effect on brain function. We do know, however, that omega-3 fatty acids present in extra-virgin olive oil and other healthy fats are necessary for proper cell function, appear to reduce your risk of coronary artery disease, and improve mental focus and halt cognitive decline in older persons.
4. Maintain mental acuity.
Your brain is analogous to a muscle in that it must be used or it will deteriorate. There are numerous ways to keep your brain in shape, including solving crossword puzzles or Sudoku, reading, playing cards, or assembling a jigsaw puzzle. Consider it cognitive cross-training. Therefore, combine a variety of activities to maximise efficacy.
I do not advocate any of the commercially available brain-training programmes. These programmes frequently make unfulfilled promises or place an emphasis on memorising abilities that are irrelevant in ordinary life. Reading and solving puzzles are both excellent ways to exercise your brain. Finally, avoid excessive television viewing, which is a passive pastime that does little to excite your brain.
Social engagement helps protect against depression and stress, both of which can result in memory loss. Look for ways to connect with family, friends, and others, particularly if you live alone. Solitary confinement has been linked to brain atrophy, therefore remaining socially active may have the opposite impact, strengthening your brain’s health.