Preventing dementia is a critical component in successful aging and a healthy lifestyle. Regardless of age, it’s never too early or late to fight against dementia. Dementia is not actually a specific disease. It’s a term used to describe a group of symptoms affecting a person’s memory or ability to perform activities of daily living (ADLs). There are six basic ADLs: eating; bathing; dressing; toileting; transferring (walking); and continence.
At least two brain functions, such as memory loss and impaired judgement, need to be affected for a person to be diagnosed with dementia. A person may experience memory loss along with difficulty of performing ADL tasks such as how to cook or drive. Loss of memory only would not necessarily mean that a person has dementia. Although there are many potential causes of dementia, Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia.
The good news is that the fight to prevent dementia may be easier and more fun than you might think. Combining healthy and fun activities is the smartest way to remain consistent with the behaviors that can help to prevent dementia.
7 Tips to outwit Dementia and Cognitive Decline
(1) Stay social.
To experience purpose in your life, it’s key to maintain your social outlets and friendships. It also helps to decrease your risk of developing depression which is a risk factor for dementia. Be active in your community by interacting with family, friends, church, civic organizations or volunteer projects.
(2) Walk daily or take a yoga or Tai Chi class.
Participate in a strength training and high intensity training (HIT) program. Exercise can help you to maintain a suitable weight by insuring your metabolism stays elevated and your hormone levels remain balanced. It also insures adequate blood flow to the smaller vessels in the brain and helps to regulate insulin levels which prevents diabetes (a risk factor for dementia). Also try combining exercise with cognitive challenges. For example, try going for a walk in the park and complete the following mini challenges. How many trees do I see? How many squirrels do I see? What is the percentage of squirrels to trees? How many birds can I find? How many bird names do I know? Try thoughtful and engaging challenges.
(3) Sleep more.
While sleeping, your brain clears out metabolic waste, known as neurofibrillary tangles, which are associated with dementia. Your body must rest in order to grow and develop. Most people are not getting adequate sleep and rest. Sleep is critical to maintaining your growth hormone and testosterone production as well as stabilizing your metabolism.
(4) Play more!
Children are so smart and have some much to teach us as adults. Possibly the most important thing a child can teach us or remind us is to PLAY MORE! Engage with your friends by playing a game. Better yet, be outside when playing the game. There are many card games that can boost memory as well require strategic thinking and basic addition and math skills. If no one can join you on a particular day, try playing a game of memory or solitaire.
(5) Don’t forget the puzzles.
Classic jigsaws are a fun quiet way to work your brain and are equally just as fun with friends. Jigsaw puzzles are also an excellent way to work on upper arm mobility as well as hand-eye coordination and finger dexterity. There is a plethora of puzzles online or in books or magazines. Try to devote a little time each day even if it’s just for 15 minutes.
(6) Learn something new.
Learning should be a lifelong pursuit. You are never too young or too old to learn something new. Maybe you want to learn another language or take an art class. Even taking a class at a local college could be a great way to get a lesson. Local community centers might offer free or low-cost options, too.
(7) Try something new.
Studies have shown that you get mental benefits through new experiences. Try going to an art show or sampling a new cuisine. Attend a cultural fair with a friend. Traveling is another great way to expand your cognitive horizons and boost your mental health.
The risk for developing dementia rapidly increases as baby boomers (and others in the western world) age. Although the exact cause of the spike in dementia cases is unknown, it’s pertinent that we live a healthy lifestyle and avoid known risk factors. Adopting some or a combination of these techniques can be beneficial. Stay engaged with the world around you! Be on the lookout for other smart and innovated ways to challenge yourself and your mind.
Written by: Ben Shatto
Editor’s Note: This article was written by Ben Shatto, PT, DPT, OCS, CSCS. Ben is a physical therapist and Administrator for Signature Healthcare – home of House Calls, Home Health, Palliative and Hospice Care as well as the founder and editor of the website: www.thePhysicalTherapyAdvisor.com. His website is dedicated to help proactive adults of all ages to understand how to safely self-treat and manage common musculoskeletal, neurological, and mobility related conditions in a timely manner so they can reach their optimal health.
Our Video Resources
For insightful videos on better living: CLICK HERE.
For the companion video to this article: CLICK HERE.
What is Dementia? Symptoms, Types, and Diagnosis: CLICK HERE.
Source: National Institute on Aging
Dementia: CLICK HERE
Source: Mayo Clinic
10 Surprising Early Signs of Dementia: CLICK HERE
Source: Smart Strategies for Successful Living