Dementia Experts Reveal 7 Rules You Should Follow To Keep Your Mind Sharp

According to the World Health Organization, over 55 million individuals worldwide are affected by dementia, a condition characterized by symptoms like memory loss, cognitive impairment, and psychological changes. Alzheimer’s disease is one specific form of dementia. The number of cases continues to rise rapidly, with approximately 10 million new cases reported each year.

This highlights the significance of brain health, which encompasses the overall well-being of cognitive skills and abilities. Dr. Zaldy Tan, the director of the Maxine & Bernard Platzer Lynn Family Memory & Healthy Aging Program at Cedars-Sinai, defines brain health as the state that enables individuals to perform essential daily functions such as purposeful movements, communication, thinking, and learning.
Dr. Dylan Wint, director of the Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health, emphasizes the importance of paying attention to brain health throughout one’s life. He explains that our choices over a lifetime have an impact on the health of our brain.

While genetics, chronic illness, and individual risk factors can contribute to the development of dementia, physicians agree that there are universal ways to enhance cognitive functioning. Dementia experts recommend following these seven brain health rules to keep your mind sharp as you age.

  1. Make exercise a regular part of your weekly routine. Research has shown that regular physical activity can improve cognitive functioning by reducing stress, counteracting anxiety-inducing hormones, and enhancing memory.
    According to Tan, physical exercise is crucial for maintaining healthy arteries, promoting adequate blood flow to the brain, and reducing the risk of falls that can result in head injuries.

You don’t have to commit to a 5K or spend hours at the gym every day. What matters most is consistency, not intensity. Heather M. Snyder, the vice president of medical and scientific relations at the Alzheimer’s Association, advises finding ways to incorporate more movement into your daily routine, such as walking, dancing, or gardening.

In addition, challenging your brain with new activities can be beneficial. While the brain is not a muscle, treating it like one can be helpful. Experts suggest that engaging in activities that develop new skills can promote neuroplasticity, which allows the brain to adapt, change, and grow over time.
“According to Wint, there are several activities that can provide cognitive benefits, such as brain games, new hobbies, taking classes, or learning a new language or instrument. The key is to engage in activities that challenge you and promote learning.

In addition, getting enough sleep is crucial for maintaining cognitive functioning. Aim for around seven hours of uninterrupted, restorative sleep. During sleep, the brain flushes out toxins that are linked to a higher risk of developing dementia and other cognitive issues. Sleep also plays a role in memory consolidation, emotional processing, and problem-solving abilities.

To ensure a good night’s sleep, minimize disruptions and address any sleep-related problems, such as sleep apnea, by consulting a healthcare provider.”
Snoring, teeth grinding, excessive daytime sleepiness, and frequent nighttime bathroom trips can be signs of an underlying sleep disorder.

  1. Take a mental break
    In addition to getting enough sleep, it’s important to schedule intentional downtime to give your mind a chance to relax, recharge, and reset.

“Just like our muscles and joints need time to recover after a tough workout, our brains also need a period of rest after a stressful day of work or a night of socializing,” said Tan. Intentional downtime can involve taking short naps during the day or simply closing your eyes and meditating.

  1. Manage chronic stress and high blood pressure
    Improving brain function goes beyond addressing sleep issues; it also involves managing chronic stress.

Tan suggests that chronic stress can have negative effects on both brain and heart health, including higher blood pressure. Studies have shown that high blood pressure can lead to memory loss, a decline in planning and organizational skills, and an increased risk of stroke.

To treat hypertension, physicians commonly recommend dietary modifications and prescribe blood pressure medications.

Another important rule for maintaining brain health is to avoid social isolation. Tan explains that as social beings, our brains thrive on interacting with others. When we don’t have regular social interactions, our memory and cognition can deteriorate over time. Therefore, it is crucial to stay engaged and connected with others.
Instead of completely changing your personality, as an introvert, you can still engage in social activities that hold meaning for you. This could involve spending quality time with loved ones, participating in sports or cultural events, joining a spiritual community, or volunteering for a cause that resonates with you.

Additionally, it is crucial to quit smoking or at least reduce the amount you smoke. While the physical health risks of smoking are well-known, it’s important to recognize the detrimental effects it has on the mind. Smoking can cause the brain to lose volume and age prematurely, significantly increasing the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia.

According to Snyder, quitting smoking can effectively lower the risk of cognitive decline and bring it down to levels similar to those who have never smoked.
While it is ideal for individuals concerned about their cognitive well-being to quit smoking, it’s important to recognize that not everyone can or wants to completely eliminate tobacco from their lives. In such cases, practicing tobacco harm reduction by opting for modern smokeless tobacco products or reducing overall intake can be helpful.

Similarly, alcohol is a known neurotoxin that can cause both short-term and long-term neurological damage. Therefore, reducing alcohol consumption is crucial for maintaining brain health.

Although you cannot fully control the aging process of your brain, following simple guidelines like these can make a significant difference in the long term. “When should one start following these guidelines? The earlier, the better, but it’s never too late to start,” Tan advised.

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