smiling mother and daughter hugging webAmericans are living longer thanks to modern medicine and our understanding of disease prevention, diagnosis, and management; however, as a result we have also seen a significant increase in the number of older adults living with dementia. One of the most common questions I am asked, related to dementia, is, “how can I prevent this from happening to me?”

We know many of the risk factors for developing dementia. They include age, family history, genetics, and chronic diseases like heart disease, diabetes, stroke, high blood pressure and high cholesterol.The Alzheimer’s Association has put together an excellent list of 10 things that you can do to help reduce your risk.

First, exercise on a regular basis.
Doing activity that elevates your heart rate and increases blood flow to the brain and body has been shown to reduce the risk of cognitive decline.

Second, keep reading.
Taking classes in person or online, attending lectures, or reading can help reduce your risk.

Third, stop smoking.
Studies show that smoking is bad for your health, and quitting smoking can reduce that risk to levels comparable to those who have not smoked.

Fourth, manage your chronic conditions.
In partnership with your doctors, make sure that your cholesterol, high blood pressure, and diabetes are under control.

Fifth, protect your brain.
Brain injuries increase your risk of dementia. Wear a seat belt, use a helmet, and take precautions to prevent falls.

Sixth, eat a balanced diet.
Some studies have shown that following a diet lower in fat and higher in vegetables and fruits, like the Mediterranean diet, may reduce your risk of developing dementia.

Seventh, get plenty of rest.
Talk with your doctor to be sure that you are getting enough sleep. If you have a sleep disorder, such as sleep apnea, be sure it is well controlled. Sleep plays a significant role in memory and thinking.

Eighth, seek medical treatment for depression, anxiety or other mental health concerns.
Practice self-care to manage your stress levels in a healthy way. Things like yoga, Tai Chi and meditation are all good ways to help deal with stress. Some studies show that uncontrolled depression is linked to increased rates of dementia.

Ninth, keep up your social life.

Last, challenge and activate your mind.
Solve crossword or Sudoku puzzles, build jigsaw
puzzles, or play games that involve strategic thinking.

If you are having problems with your memory, or your friends and family have noticed that you are more forgetful than usual, bring it up with your doctor.

Early detection can allow you to get the maximum benefit from the resources available, maintain your independence longer, and help you to plan for your future. Early detection may also allow you to participate in clinical drug trials that help advance research.

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