Dementia is the term used to describe a specific set of symptoms that develop as a result of changes in brain function that occur. Some of the most common symptoms of dementia include:
- Repeating the same question over and over
- Losing sense of direction
- Inability to follow directions
- Becoming unfamiliar with people and places
- Losing sense of time
- Loss of concern about hygiene, nutrition and safety
There are numerous conditions that can cause dementia. Some forms of dementia can be successfully treated, while others cannot. Fortunately, years of research have shown that there are steps that can be taken to help prevent dementia from occurring.
Reading can help to ward off dementia in two ways. First, by reading a book, individuals are engaging their brains in a mentally stimulating activity that can greatly reduce the risk of developing dementia. Additionally, reading can help take the mind off of stressful events. When people become engaged in the storyline, they can temporarily let go of their stress and any negative thoughts they may have. Decreasing stress levels is an important factor in reducing the risk of many medical conditions, including dementia.
Play A Board Game
Most health care professionals agree that engaging in mentally stimulating activities can significantly decrease the risk of developing dementia. With that said, it is important to note that how often people engage in mental activities can impact the level of protection they receive.
Additionally, not all mental activities will reap the same benefits. In fact, according to a study cited in the New England Journal of Medicine, individuals who played board games often had a substantially reduced risk of developing dementia than those who played games less often. Individuals who did not play any board games, but did engage in other mentally stimulating activities such as writing and participating in group discussions, demonstrated no decreased risk for dementia.
Take Up An Instrument
Learning to play an instrument can help you tap into areas of the brain that are not often used. When individuals take up a new activity and learn a new skill, the brain makes new connections. This results in increased brain activity, which stimulates different brain cortexes. An active brain is a healthy brain, which is less likely to be affected by dementia. The more often an instrument is played, the more protection from dementia the brain receives.
Do Puzzles And Thinking Games
Doing puzzles is an effective way to increase your brain power. In order to stay sharp, the brain needs to exercise often. Puzzles are constantly changing, and no two are the same. This type of mental activity keeps the brain in a constant state of stimulation from start to finish. Engage in puzzles or thinking games for 30 minutes each day to reduce the risk of developing dementia. Different types of mentally stimulating puzzles include:
- Crossword puzzles
- IQ puzzles
- Math problem puzzles
- Optical illusions
- Logic puzzles
- Word games
- Memory games
- Search and find games
Take A Class
Much like the muscles in the body, when it comes to the brain, you have to learn how to “use it or lose it”. One of the most effective ways to prevent dementia is to keep the mind sharp. Cognitive reserve, which is the ability of the brain to withstand debilitating conditions such as dementia, is developed by intellectual stimulation. The more cognitive reserves an individual has, the greater the number of neuron connections. With more neuron connections comes increased blood flow.
All of these factors can contribute to a decreased risk of developing dementia. When the brain is functioning with stronger neuron connections and more blood flow, it is believed to be able to withstand nerve cell damage that is caused by dementia. For this reason, taking a class that forces you to think, rationalize and apply logic can help keep the mind sharp and the brain in superior health.
Engage In Physical Activity
We all know that exercise is good for the body, but you may be surprised to learn that it is also food for the brain. During exercise, oxygen saturates the blood. This blood then travels to all areas of the body, including the brain. When this oxygen-rich blood reaches the brain, it can delay the onset of dementia. In addition, it may even be able to reduce the severity of symptoms in individuals who are suffering from dementia.
If traditional workouts are not your thing, engage in low-impact physical activities such as:
- Tai Chi
- Taking Yoga
- Stretching exercises
- Mild to moderate aerobics
Eat Healthy Foods
Food is fuel for your body. If you feed your brain the right nutrients, it will repay you by offering you some protection against dementia. Steer clear of unhealthy foods that are fried, high in fat and laden with artificial sweeteners and chemicals.
One study that was published in the Nutritional Research journal stated that high-fat foods actually interfere with older adults’ memory abilities. Low calorie diets, such as the Mediterranean diet, provide the most protection from dementia. This is believed to be a result of both the high level of antioxidants and omega-3 fatty acids found in the foods that make up this diet.
Healthy foods that are believed to boost brain function include:
- Olive oil
Engaging in social activities on a regular basis can delay the onset of dementia in susceptible individuals. The American Journal of Public Health cited two studies that concluded that individuals who are older than 50 and have strong social networks are less likely to develop dementia than others their age who do not have good social networks. The more often individuals engage in social activities, the more protection their brains may receive. Social activities that anyone can enjoy include:
- Meeting up with old friends
- Going out and making new friends
- Going to the movie theater
- Attending art exhibits
- Gathering to play cards or games
- Seeing a live play
- Visiting a park or beach
- Attending a concert
It’s no secret that smoking is unhealthy and is linked to a variety of harmful medical conditions. What many people are surprised to learn, is that one of those conditions is dementia. Smoking during midlife and beyond can more than double the risk of developing dementia later in life. If you don’t smoke, don’t start. If you do smoke, take the steps necessary to quit. Your body, and your brain, will thank you.
Lower Your Cholesterol
Individuals who suffer from high cholesterol often have cholesterol deposits on their brains. These deposits are one of the known causes for the development of dementia. Lowering your cholesterol level is proven to be a very effective way to decrease the risk of developing dementia.
Despite what many people believe, dementia is not inevitable. There are many individuals who live comfortably into old age without suffering from the devastating effects of dementia. It’s never too early to take steps to safeguard your health and boost your brain power.