The number of people diagnosed with dementia is projected to dramatically rise, jumping from 55 million to 88 million Americans by 2050. While there’s no known cure for Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias, a recent report shines a light on specific strategies that can be taken to protect your brain health and reduce the risk of developing dementia.
First, if you’re looking for a magic bullet, you’ll be disappointed. Instead, doctors featured in this Wall Street Journal piece say that taking “common-sense actions” to promote healthy aging is the way to go.
“It’s about a package of behaviors, including aerobic exercise, strength training, a healthy diet, sleep, and cognitive training,” Sarah Lenz Lock, executive director of AARP’s Global Council on Brain Health, told the Journal.
The good news? It’s never too late to start, according to researchers. Here are six strategies outlined by the scientific studies included in the new report:
- Blood pressure control: Recent studies offer evidence that high blood pressure is a treatable risk factor that leads to dementia. Lowered blood pressure can also reduce your risk of stroke, heart attack, and death. Speak to your doctor about potential treatments.
- Exercise: At United Hebrew, we’ve long known the benefits of staying active. The new research also shows that physically active individuals are less likely than inactive peers to develop dementia. Regular exercise increases blood flow, important for cognitive function. Let’s get moving!
- Cognitive training: People who engaged in more than six activities a month — including hobbies, reading, socializing, walking, volunteering and attending religious services — had a 38% lower rate of developing dementia than people who did fewer activities.
- Diet: Studies show fewer Alzheimer’s diagnoses among those who mostly closely follow a Mediterranean diet (fish, fruits, nuts, vegetables).
- Sleep: Poor sleep may be a risk factor for Alzheimer’s, according to the report. One theory? Sleep washes away substances like beta amyloid and tau proteins — two toxic proteins implicated in Alzheimer’s. More research is being done on treating sleep problems as a way to prevent dementia. In the meantime, get some zzz’s!
- Combination: Many researchers conclude that a multi-pronged approach to preventing Alzheimer’s and dementia works best. One study revealed that those who engaged in intensive lifestyle changes (nutrition, exercise, brain-training programs) improved their overall health and cognitive function significantly more than a peer control group.
You won’t have to look far to find local experts at United Hebrew of New Rochelle who agree that a holistic approach is the way to age healthfully and reduce our risk for dementia and other chronic illnesses that affect an older population.
“We care for the whole person at United Hebrew,” says Rita Mabli, president/CEO. “Our physicians and nurses closely monitor the health of each and every resident; our onsite chefs offer delicious and nutritious meals; and our recreation staff plans an engaging activity calendar packed with options to suit an array of tastes.
“Even entertainment has a therapeutic advantage. It’s why our residents participate in a wide variety of activities from dance movement therapy to Chair Zumba, classical concerts and Big Band performances, current events discussion groups, art classes, theater and restaurant outings, Bingo, movies and board games, book clubs and technology training. These activities keep our residents engaged, happy, and independent as long as possible.”