7 Things You Can Start Doing Today to Lower Your Risk of Dementia
1) Garden – Research suggests gardening may be a great form of therapy for people with Alzheimer’s and a way to lower your risk of dementia. Gardening combines physical exercise with mental and sensory engagement (sight, sound, smell, touch, and taste) to build new connections in the brain that ward off cognitive decline and encourage healthy eating.
2) Speed of Processing Training – A recent study compared groups of seniors who were given training with one type of brain game called speed of processing training showed those who were given extra training were less likely to be diagnosed with dementia. As for other brain training games and puzzles, while the hard science is currently lacking, maintaining an active brain through any type of playful activity fits within the healthy lifestyle recommended to limit cognitive decline. Just don’t let those computer games keep you from getting out to exercise and socialize.
3) Pickleball – Try this simple, easy to play, all-ages, no-contact sport resembling components of tennis, badminton, and table tennis. Popular with everyone from kids to senior citizens, it provides for good exercise and the opportunity to connect socially (it’s most commonly played as a mixed-gender doubles game). Plus, with the Alzheimer’s Association warning of the dangerous connection between head injuries and dementia, the speed-of-play and lack of contact don’t invite near the number of head injuries associated with many other sports.
4) Party – Moderate alcohol intake can reduce the risk of dementia according to a recent study. But put an emphasis on moderation. Heavy drinking (3-5 drinks per day) increases dementia risk. Combine moderate drinking with the recommended social engagement and you could party your way to a lower dementia risk.
5) Learn a new language – Learning a new language could help prevent Alzheimer’s. While these studies show lifelong bilingualism may delay dementia’s onset, many dementia experts recommend continuing education to help limit cognitive decline. So, perhaps it’s never too late to start. You might even be able to make a new social connection with someone whose native language you’re learning.
6) Take a class – According to a 2014 study conducted by the Journal of the American Medical Association Neurology, “Lifetime intellectual enrichment might delay the onset of cognitive impairment and be used as a successful preventive intervention to reduce the impending dementia epidemic.” So whether you take a class at a community college, a community center, or audit a course at a major university, lifelong learning may help reduce cognitive decline.
7) Volunteer – A 2017 study concluded volunteering later in life results in lower self-reported cognitive complaints and a lower risk for dementia. This is great news because populations most at risk for developing dementia (seniors) also tend to have lots of time to dedicate to causes and a desire to give back to their communities. It’s the perfect storm. Check out this article for more information on how, why, and where to volunteer.
What steps have you taken in your own life to protect your cognition?