As we grow older, one of our greatest fears is losing our memory and ending up with dementia. Alzheimer’s disease, the most common type of dementia, affects 1 in 10 people ages 65 and older. So while the risk is real, there’s a growing body of evidence that shows you can reduce the risk of cognitive decline by exercising regularly, eating a healthy diet, and staying socially active. Just doing those three things will help keep your brain healthy (not to mention the rest of your body). For more ways to look after your brain, consider the following healthy lifestyle practices.
7 ways to keep your gray matter in great shape.
- Eat a healthy diet — A diet that’s high in fat and sugar is as bad for your brain as it is for your body. Diets that emphasize fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean meats, fatty fish, and healthy fats help reduce the risk of cognitive decline. The MIND diet is a good example of a brain-healthy diet that’s been shown to slow brain aging by 7.5 years.
- Break a sweat — Just 30 minutes of aerobic exercise five times a week can keep your brain sharp. Cardiovascular exercise not only helps your heart, it can increase the size of your hippocampus, a part of the brain crucial to making memories. Exercise also generates a chemical called BDNF (brain derived neurotrophic factor), which acts like fertilizer for the brain, encouraging the growth of neural connections and new brain cells.
- Get a good night’s sleep — Sleep helps your brain consolidate memories, clear out abnormal proteins, and wake up feeling refreshed and firing on all cylinders. Not getting the recommended seven to eight hours of sleep each night can result in problems with memory and thinking. Lack of sleep may also increase your risk of developing Alzheimer’s.
- Exercise your mind — Your brain is like a muscle, use or lose it. Doing crossword puzzles, playing cards, reading, learning an instrument, or taking a college class can help keep your brain in shape. Learning something new encourages the growth of new brain cells and stimulates the connections between them. So it’s good to experience new things, take on new situations, and meet new people.
- Practice meditation — Decreased stress, lower blood pressure, and reduced symptoms of anxiety and depression are some of the ways meditation improves mental health. Meditation also engages your brain in new ways, increasing brain fitness. Practicing mindfulness meditation for 10 minutes a day can improve concentration and working memory, the ability to keep new information in mind so the brain can work with it briefly and connect it with other information.
- Quit smoking — In addition to shortening your life span, smoking increases the risk of dementia and stroke. A recent study showed smokers are more likely to experience age-related brain volume loss. Smokers also have an increased risk of dementia. So if you don’t want your brain to shrink and your memories to disappear, stop smoking.
- Don’t forget to floss — A 2019 study found the bacteria that cause gingivitis may also be connected to Alzheimer’s disease. Scientists have previously found that this bacteria, called Porphyromonas gingivalis, can move from the mouth to the brain. Once in the brain, the bacteria release enzymes that can destroy nerve cells, which leads to memory loss and eventually Alzheimer’s.
Memory care at Rolling Green Village.
If someone you love is living with memory loss, the memory care neighborhood at Rolling Green Village offers a safe, supportive setting. Residents benefit from private suites, personalized care and specialized programs.
Staff members are trained in Heartfelt CONNECTIONS — A Memory Care Program®. This nationally recognized model is built on a philosophy that what remains is more important than what’s been lost. We focus on each person’s remaining abilities and celebrate their successes.
Personalized care programs are designed around each resident’s needs. Music therapy, for example, can be used to access cherished memories, improve mood and calm emotions. Pet therapy, including a robotic baby harp seal named Jenny, helps lower levels of depression and agitation. Light sensory therapy is also used to both calm and stimulate residents.
To learn more about our unique approach to memory care, check out our blog post: What Is Memory Care Like at Rolling Green Village?