The chance of developing dementia increases with age. People can reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias (ADRD) by making lifestyle choices to stay sharp at any age. Keep in mind, dementia is not a normal part of aging.
Some people are at higher risk of developing ADRD, including women and people of color. Older African Americans and Hispanics/Latinx are 1.5 to 2 times more likely to have ADRD than Caucasians. Regardless of race, women have almost double the chance of being affected by Alzheimer’s disease than men.
There are proactive steps you can take to keep your brain healthy! Follow these six healthy habits today to take control of your brain health. It’s never too late or too early to start a healthy lifestyle.
1. Healthy Food, Healthy Brain
Food is medicine. Reduce your risk of dementia by eating a healthy, balanced diet that is higher in vegetables and fruits, especially leafy green vegetables, and a variety of berries. Those food options include:
- Lots of vegetables, especially leafy green vegetables, nuts, berries, beans, whole grains, fish, poultry, and extra virgin olive oil.
- Reduced amounts of red meat, butter and stick margarine, cheese, pastries and other processed sweets, fried foods, and fast food.
Here are some easy ways to increase your healthy food intake:
- Buy frozen vegetables. They are easy to prepare and have a longer shelf life.
- Keep healthy snacks, like nuts, in clear containers at eye level in your refrigerator. You’ll be more likely to reach for these instead of something unhealthy that doesn’t fuel your brain and body.
- Look for low sodium products in the store, such as low sodium canned beans or salt-free seasoning mixes.
- Choose brown rice over white rice to increase your whole grain intake.
- Eat the rainbow. Add a variety of colorful fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Include lots of leafy green vegetables and a variety of berries.
- Use extra virgin olive oil on salads and for low heat cooking.
2. Sound Sleep, Sound Mind
Quality sleep is essential for brain health. Research shows that our brains give themselves a deep clean while we are asleep. Here are some ways to improve your sleep and give yourself a brain bath:
- Avoid caffeine and alcohol in the afternoons and evenings.
- Unplug from technology an hour before you plan to fall asleep. Your brain will have time to wind down, ensuring a more restful night of sleep.
- Sleep at least 7-8 hours per night in a dark and cool room. Have a routine by going to bed at the same time every night.
3. Active Body, Active Brain
Physical activity can help improve mood, brain function, memory, sleep, and overall well-being. Getting enough physical activity can be difficult, but here are some ways to help:
- Go on a nature hike or walk in your neighborhood.
- Listen to music, audiobooks, or a podcast while you do physical activity.
- Find an activity buddy. It could be your spouse, kids, friend, or a dog.
- Combine cardio, balance, strength training, and flexibility into your physical activity routine to improve whole body health.
4. Active Learning, Active Mind
Did you know that not using your brain can make it shrink? Keep your brain active by continuously learning. Here are some ways to include lifelong learning into your routine:
- Complete a daily word puzzle or sudoku.
- Read books about new topics you find interesting.
- Learn a new language or a new skill.
- Learn or continue to play an instrument.
- Regularly challenge yourself to try new things.
5. Strong Relationships, Strong Mind
Being social is important to keep your brain healthy. When people connect with one another, it improves their memory, as well as their mood. Below are some ways to help you build an active social life:
- Join a book club in your neighborhood or city to engage in lifelong learning while also socializing.
- Talk with your family members, friends, and neighbors regularly.
- Volunteer with a local organization for a cause you care about, like an animal shelter or food bank.
- Join a sports league or a class at the community/senior center or gym.
- Start or join a band or choir. Music is also beneficial to brain health.
6. Healthy Heart, Healthy Brain
Diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol can negatively impact your heart health. Decreasing the risks of these chronic conditions and keeping your heart healthy helps keep your brain healthy too. Here are some ways to take care of your heart and brain:
- Cut the sugar. Drinking too many sugary drinks may lead to developing chronic diseases.
- Regularly check your blood pressure using an at-home blood pressure monitor. When blood pressure is not controlled, it can cause a stroke, and it can also damage your kidneys, eyes, heart, and brain.
- Make an appointment with your doctor for routine health screenings and vaccinations.
- If you are a smoker, take steps to quit for good.
- Reduce alcohol by limiting yourself to one drink a day.
- Eat a healthy, balanced diet that is higher in vegetables and fruits, especially leafy green veggies, and a variety of berries.
- Learn how to manage stress through deep breathing exercises, meditation, walks, yoga, or music therapy.
- Know these 10 warning signs and symptoms for early ADRD detection
- 3 stages and symptoms of ADRD
- Difference between dementia and Alzheimer’s disease