RICHLAND, WA – Alzheimer’s disease is expected to impact nearly 14 million Americans by 2050. So as people ponder their 2019 New Year’s resolutions, the Alzheimer’s Association is encouraging everyone to include brain health on the list.
Research shows that healthy lifestyle interventions — like those recommended for prevention of heart disease, diabetes, cancer and other major disease — may reduce the risk of cognitive decline and dementia. Many of these preventive measures are things you may already be doing or thinking about starting in the new year: eating well, staying physically active and getting good sleep, just to name a few.
“There is increasing evidence to suggest that what is good for the heart is good for our brains,” says Keith Fargo, Ph.D., director of scientific programs and outreach at the Alzheimer’s Association. “Keeping our brains healthy is not something we should worry about only as we get older. It should be a lifelong effort.”
The Alzheimer’s Association offers 10 Ways to Love Your Brain, tips aimed at promoting brain health. Combining all ten behaviors offers a greater benefit than any single activity alone.
One easy way to encourage brain health at any age is to stimulate your mind with problem-solving challenges. Working on a jigsaw puzzle, learning a new language and playing strategy games are a few ways to strengthen your memory — as long as they are new and challenging tasks. Research has also found correlations between higher levels of formal education and a better cognitive reserve — so consider signing up for a class in 2019!
Another way to promote brain health is taking care of your mental health. Managing stress and anxiety is not only important for overall health and wellbeing, but studies have found a link between depression and increased risk of cognitive decline. Take care of yourself and seek medical treatment if you have symptoms.
Being social may also support brain health. That’s right. Add “hang out with friends” and “have fun” to your New Year’s resolutions list. Better yet, take on several of these lifestyle changes for maximum impact. For example, enroll in a dance class with a friend.
Alzheimer’s researchers are now looking into whether a “cocktail” of these interventions can protect cognitive function. The Alzheimer’s Association’s U.S. Study to Protect Brain Health Through Lifestyle Intervention to Reduce Risk (U.S. POINTER) is a two-year clinical trial that hopes to answer this question, and is the first such study to be conducted of a large group of Americans nationwide.
While there’s currently no certain way to prevent Alzheimer’s and other dementias, there is much to be gained by living a healthy lifestyle and adopting brain health habits you enjoy so you’re more likely to stick with them for the long haul.