One of the disadvantages of getting old is the increased risk of dementia. We find ourselves forgetting things that once would have been a normal part of recall. But there are things you can do to help reduce the risk of dementia. These include keeping active, eating healthily and exercising your mind.
Keeping Active: It is a common belief that aerobic exercise, in and of itself, is sufficient to help maintain cognitive abilities. It is certainly beneficial, but research has shown that incorporating different forms of exercise stimulates different parts of the brain. A comprehensive exercise program is the most effective way to reap maximum cognitive benefits from exercise. Each workout should include aerobic exercise, both moderate and higher intensity. But the workout regimen should also include coordination exercises, resistance training, balance exercises, flexibility exercises, and strength and agility exercises. This combination of exercises has been shown to improve neuroplasticity, which is the brain’s ability to regenerate neurons lost through the aging process or trauma. The brain is a remarkable thing and stimulating all spheres of the brain is the best way to keep it in shape.
Healthy Eating: A balanced diet can also help to prevent the onset of dementia. Some simple rules are to eat at least five portions of fruit and vegetables a day: eat proteins at least twice a week; limit the intake of sugar and salt; eat less saturated fats; and stay adequately hydrated. A commonsense approach to eating can prove extremely beneficial without the stress of “dieting.” It is also important to not smoke! Smoking can restrict the flow of blood to the body, which is a bad thing!
Exercising Your Mind: Keeping your mind active is likely to reduce your risk of dementia. Regularly challenging yourself mentally seems to build up the brain’s ability to cope with disease. One way to think about it is ‘Use it or lose it’.
Find something you like doing that challenges your brain and do it regularly. It’s important to find something that you’ll keep up. For example:
- hand-eye coordination exercises
- learn a new language
- do puzzles, crosswords or quizzes
- play card games or board games
- read challenging books or write (fiction or non-fiction).
Talking and communicating with other people may also help to reduce your risk of dementia. Make an effort to keep in touch with the people who are important to you, such as friends and family. Volunteering, or joining a club or community group are also good ways to stay socially active.