Consider the alternative – succumbing to Alzheimer’s. This may sound draconian, but here are the harsh realities:
- Alzheimer’s affects 5.1 million people age 65 and older in 2015.
- By 2025 that number will reach 7.1 million – a whopping 40 percent increase!
- By 2050, unless there’s a cure, the number may triple compared to 2015 – to 16 million.
Happily, we may be able to do something about it.
A study cited in the Wall Street Journal article, “Our Amazingly Plastic Brains,” says it’s not a foregone conclusion that you’ll get Alzheimer’s, even if you have a genetic predisposition towards getting it. “Environmental factors interact with…genetic makeup to eventually allow or deny dementia a foothold,” according to the article.
The environmental factors we can control are:
- How well we take care of our overall health, and
- How much and how often we keep our brains stimulated.
Just as our bodies benefit when we push them by exercising regularly, our brains respond positively when we break the routine and challenge them. “It turns out that our brains, like our bodies in general, are far more likely to waste away from underuse than to wear down from overuse,” according to article.
So what are some ways we can deny giving Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia a foothold? Here’s a list of things you can do to keep your brain sharp as you age, compiled from Harvard, Everyday Health, Prevention and others:
- Keep your numbers under control
- Blood sugar
- Cholesterol levels
- Blood pressure
- Adopt Good Health Habits
- Stay (or get) physically active
- Eat a nutritious diet – vegetables, fish, avoid saturated fats
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Don’t smoke
- Don’t drink excessively
- Learn new skills
- Playing a musical instrument
- Learning a foreign language
- Play challenging games
- Crossword puzzles
- Math puzzles
- Mah Jongg
- Increase social interaction
- Book group
- Part-time job
- Adopt a pet
- Manage stress
- Focus on one task at a time
- Take a nap
- Keep your thoughts happy
- Get regular sleep
- Set realistic expectations
- Take breaks during the day
- Express feelings and don’t bottle them up
- Balance work and leisure time
Start small and build from there. We may not like getting old, but it beats the alternative, and wouldn’t you prefer to be one of the folks people refer to as “sharp as a tack?”
So what are you waiting for? Get out your chessboard, take up Yoga, or adopt a pet. Your brain will thank you.