Alzheimer’s and Dementia are the boogeymen of the elderly, but did you know cognitive function starts decreasing at 30? (!!) So if you’re reading this, and you’re over 30, sorry, you’ve already peaked, and you’re not even middle aged yet. However, the good news is that there ARE things we can do to keep our minds sharp and decrease our risk factors for Alzheimer’s and Dementia. Here are 25 Clever Ways To Keep Your Mind Sharp And Young.
Eat Well! Antioxidants are good for your brain, and fresh fruits and veggies contain a lot of them. A brain fueled with good food works better than a brain fueled with Twinkies and Doritos. (aw man...)
Higher Blood Pressure in midlife can increase your chances of cognitive decline when you're older, so keep your blood pressure under control.
Taking a brief walk can actually help decrease your risk for dementia in old age, some studies suggest. Power walks improve blood flow which helps prevent the condition.
Get your good fat! You brain needs fat to function, but only very specific kinds of fats. (That's why babies need breast milk during those crucial first two years of life; it's FULL of good fat.) For adults though, Omega 3 Fatty Acids are necessary, and a lot of people are lacking because our bodies don't make them; they MUST be a part of our diet. These fats can be found in fish, some nuts, and supplements that are sold just about everywhere. Omega 3s also help reduce inflammation and may help stave off heart disease. So eat good fish twice a week or take a supplement.
Keep your cholesterol low, as high cholesterol is a risk factor for vascular dementia (also known as small blood vessel disease in the brain) later in life.
Stay Hydrated! This is useful information for young and old. Being dehydrated makes the brain pretty unhappy. We have trouble focusing, headaches, sleep issues, more brain farts. Dehydration has even been associated with depression. The minimum recommended water intake per day is 80 ounces according to the Mayo Clinic, but most adults in the US drink less than HALF of that. That 3pm slump that most people hit? Take a brisk walk and drink a LARGE glass of water. And no, water with sweetener, tea, coffee, etc don't count. If you don't like plain water, infuse it with FRESH fruit or cucumbers.
Keep your friends close. People who stay socially active as they get older do better with memory and thinking, so stay social and not just on the computer. Get out and about around other people you connect with.
Don't do hard drugs. Hard drugs - heroine, cocaine, and a million others that my suburban housewife self can't name - can alter your mind's performance over time, even when you aren't using, as well as the unhelpful and life-ruining side effects of addiction.
There are a lot of bad things that can happen with vitamin deficiencies. Here's another reason to not skip out on vitamin D (which you can get naturally through certain foods and spending time in the sun). Scientists suspect that vitamin D might activate "cellular signalling" that cleans away plaque build up in the brain. If you're looking for an excuse to hit the beach or visit a park, here it is!
Brush your teeth, and while you're there, floss. They make those little pic floss tool things now, so we really have no excuse. People who don't floss can harbor bacteria that have been linked cognitive decline.
Chill out. Stress is bad for your brain and can "disturb cognitive processes such as learning and memory." Your hippocampus, which stores a lot of your memory, can be seriously affected by stress. Also, being stressed makes life kind of a drag. If you can't figure out how to chill out on your own, talk to your doctor who may have options for you to unwind, such as yoga and meditation, before resorting to medications.
If you like this piece of advice, wait until you get to number 5!
Spend time with the grandkids! A study published in 2014 showed that grandparents who babysit their grand-kids once a week did better in cognitive skills tests than those who didn't, excepting those who watched their grand-kids 5 days a week; they did quite poorly. So QUALITY time, not QUANTITY time.
Age with grace and wisdom. Current Western culture sometimes forgets the value of its elders, but most of the rest of the world hasn't. The wisdom of older people isn't just an old wive's tale; there's actually neurological scientific support for it - when you're older, you've had millions of moments and facts to draw information from and process information through.
Reading can help sharpen your thinking skills, but not just any reading - reading about things you don't know much about, things that present new cultures and ideas. Study new subjects. One of the best ways to keep your mind sharp is to fill and challenge it.
Don't drink to excess. Not only is alcohol abuse a significant risk factor for dementia, it makes you really unpleasant to be around. On the other hand, responsible, low dose alcohol use can reduce your risk. All things in moderation.
Laugh! Laughter truly is one of the best medicines, particularly when it comes to mental health. Laughter improves your mood, reduces stress, and decreases anxiety.
Control your blood sugar! Type 2 diabetes is a known risk factor for vascular dementia AND Alzheimer's Disease. Your pancreas is important, love it.
Smoking in midlife has been linked to Alzheimer's and Dementia. Tobacco is bad for you, and we learn new ways it's bad for you all the time. If you have a tobacco habit, please quit.
Wear a helmet! Even moderate head injury such as a concussion can increase risk for dementia later in life by a factor of 10. Love your noggin, keep it safe.
Always look on the bright side of life. Finnish researches claim that cynical people are more likely to develop dementia than their optimistic counterparts. It's suspected that depression among cynics plays a role.
Get good sleep. Studies have found that poor sleep in older age is linked to brain atrophy. If you're having a hard time sleeping, go see a doctor. Chronic Insomnia or waking up tired after 8 hours isn't normal.
Want to know more about why it’s important to catch those ZZZZ’s? Check out 25 Cool Facts About Sleep You Probably Didn’t Know.