The brain changes that lead to dementia begin long before you have signs of memory loss or thinking problems. That means you have an opportunity to slow down or possibly prevent dementia.
If you wonder about your risk of developing dementia or would like more personalized guidance about keeping your brain healthy, don’t look any further than Hany Ashamalla, MD, at Notre Dame Behavioral Health, located in Surprise and Peoria, Arizona. As a board-certified psychiatrist and neurologist, he has extensive experience in all aspects of dementia, including prevention and treatment.
In this blog, he recommends five lifestyle habits that lower your chances of dementia.
Your diet can both support or threaten the health of your brain. One of the best steps you can take to keep your mind sharp is adding colorful fruits and vegetables to your diet. Some of the best choices include:
These foods are packed with flavonoids — plant-based substances that trigger cellular activity in the human body. For example, flavonoids reduce inflammation, promote healthy blood vessels, and protect the health of nerves.
Flavonoids may also help slow down brain changes, protect your cognitive function, and reduce the risks of dementia.
While it's never too late to add beneficial fruits and vegetables to your diet, the longer you follow a healthy diet, the better your chances are of staving off dementia.
Getting regular physical activity prevents and helps treat chronic conditions like heart disease. Exercise also protects your cognitive function even if you already have the brain changes that usually lead to dementia.
Clinicians at the Washington DC Veterans Affairs Medical Center followed a large group of veterans, comparing their physical fitness to their risk for dementia. People in the fittest group were 33% less likely to develop Alzheimer's disease compared to those in the least fit group.
You don't need to join a gym or engage in intense activities. Moderate exercise, like taking brisk walks, helps you maintain a healthier brain.
Staying engaged involves keeping your brain active and maintaining social connections.
Throughout your life, your brain keeps building nerve connections but only if you exercise your brain. You can keep your brain active by reading, playing games, or learning new activities.
Though you may run across a plethora of brain training apps that boost your memory and cognitive abilities, only one type so far, speed processing training, has proven to lower your risk of dementia. That specialized brain training program improves your brain's processing speed and visual attention.
Adults who stay connected with other people have a lower risk of developing dementia. Social engagement may even slow down the progression of dementia after symptoms appear.
Preventing cardiovascular disease does more than support your overall health and well-being. Keeping your heart and blood vessels healthy prevents the second most common type of dementia after Alzheimer's disease: vascular dementia.
Vascular dementia causes progressive brain damage when blocked arteries reduce the blood supply. The blockage develops when cholesterol builds up in arteries carrying oxygen-rich blood to your brain.
You may not be able to avoid vascular dementia caused by a stroke. However, you can dramatically lower your risk of vascular dementia that gradually develops because of fatty plaque.
In addition to following a healthy diet and getting enough exercise, it’s essential to prevent or treat the conditions that cause clogged arteries, such as high cholesterol and high blood pressure.
When compared to people who don't smoke, smokers are 30% more likely to develop dementia. Smoking significantly raises your risk of blood vessel problems, leading to strokes, brain bleeds, and vascular dementia. Additionally, the toxins in cigarette smoke cause inflammation, which makes you more likely to develop Alzheimer's disease.
If you have questions about dementia, would like a cognitive assessment, or need care for symptoms that have already appeared, you can depend on receiving compassionate and high-quality care at Notre Dame Behavioral Health. Call or request an appointment online today.