Dementia & Cognitive Decline: 7 Powerful Steps to Ward Off Dementia by Joseph Keon
Worried about dementia and cognitive decline? The best studies show that the more healthful changes we adopt, the lower our risk of future dementia becomes.
1. Treat High Blood Pressure
High blood pressure reduces blood flow to the brain, increases brain inflammation, damages brain blood vessels and significantly raises the risk of stroke. Studies show a 50 to 70 percent reduction in the risk of Alzheimer’s disease in those who undergo long-term treatment with antihypertensive medications. Elevated blood pressure can also be brought under control by centering the diet upon plant-based foods, reducing sodium intake, losing weight and performing daily aerobic exercise.
2. Exercise 150 Minutes Per Week
There’s no ambiguity about the science on exercise and brain health: the more we do, the better off we are. Rush University researchers found those who exercise the least are over twice as likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease compared to those who exercise most frequently. Exercise wards off age-related brain shrinkage, lowers blood pressure, increases blood flow to the brain, is associated with improved thinking and memory, and can even grow new neurons. Current recommendations are for a minimum of 30 minutes a day, five days per week.
3. Eliminate Alcohol
Despite the messaging that moderate alcohol consumption is heart healthy, the reality is that alcohol is toxic to every cell in the body and poses a special threat to the brain. Alcohol consumption is associated with neuroinflammation, brain shrinkage, poor absorption of B-vitamins critical to memory and an elevated risk for early-onset dementia. Alcohol use disorders in women triple the risk for future dementia. Protect your brain and jettison the alcohol!
4. Take a Vitamin B12 Supplement
Up to 20 percent of American adults are vitamin B-12 deficient. This vitamin is critical to brain function and memory and deficiency is associated with memory problems and increased risk of cognitive decline and dementia. Metformin (a popular diabetes drug), alcohol consumption and gastritis may impair vitamin B-12 absorption. To assure sufficient intake, consider a vitamin B-12 supplement.
5. Avoid Fried Foods
Every day, 68 million Americans consume fried foods, exposing themselves to dangerous trans-fats which clog up the blood vessels feeding the brain, shrinks the brain at an accelerated rate, and are associated with up to a five-fold increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease. Choose instead bright-colored fruits and vegetables, leafy greens, lentils and beans that are rich in antioxidant and anti-inflammatory elements that protect brain health.
6. Check Your Medications
Studies have found that two classes of prescription medications are associated with a greater risk of dementia. The first class, called anticholinergics, are prescribed for allergies, colds, depression, hypertension and incontinence. The second class of drugs, benzodiazepines, are prescribed for anxiety and as sleeping aids. The good news is that there are alternatives for both drug classes that do not have this risk association. Consult your doctor to determine if you are presently taking medications in either of these drug classes and consider appropriate alternatives.
7. Treat Hearing Loss
For the 48 million Americans who suffer from it, hearing loss may do more than compromise quality of life and lead to social isolation. Depending on its severity, it may also raise the risk of future dementia two- to five-fold, and those with untreated hearing loss also tend to experience cognitive decline earlier than individuals with normal hearing. The good news is that treating hearing loss not only improves hearing, it also helps with brain health. In one study, 97 percent of participants who were fitted with hearing aids experienced significant improvements in cognitive health after 18 months, including boosts to working memory and their ability to plan, organize and initiate tasks.
To reiterate, the best studies show that the more healthful strategies one adopts, the better able they are to prevent cognitive decline and the lower risk of future dementia. The power is in your hands, so act now!
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