As you age you may notice the normal signs of an aging brain: occasionally forgetting someone’s name or misplacing a set of keys. Dementia is a more serious condition, and its rates increase with age. There are two types of dementia, vascular dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
A person’s risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease doubles every five years after age 65. By the age of 85, 25–50% of people exhibit signs of dementia. That is why it is important to take preventive steps to boost your brain health now to reduce your risk for dementia.
Certain diseases, conditions, and lifestyle choices can raise your risk factors. People who have cardiovascular disease, hypertension, and diabetes are at an increased risk of both kinds of dementia. If you smoke, drink heavily, have suffered a head injury, or are overweight you are have an increased risk.
Here’s how to boost your brain health through healthy habits.
Get regular exercise
Exercise is good for your cardiovascular health and it helps you reduce your risk factors for dementia by helping to maintain a healthy weight and reduce your risk for diabetes. It also can help increase your mood.
Eat a Mediterranean diet
A Mediterranean diet is rich in fruits, vegetables, nuts, and fish. This pattern of eating can protect your brain health as well as your cardiovascular health. Particularly good brain foods and the best foods for men over 40 include walnuts, any kinds of berries, and green leafy vegetables.
Use it or lose it
You have to keep stimulating your brain. Whether you read, learn new skills, solve puzzles, play or listen to music, keep a hobby, or follow current events, these activities stimulate your brain and delay memory loss.
Get more sleep
You don’t need us to tell you your brain does not function well after a bad night’s sleep. A study on sleep and Alzheimer’s found that “sleep and neurodegenerative disease may influence each other in many ways.” Chronic sleep deprivation can increase the accumulation of a protein fragment called beta-amyloid, which concentrates in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients. Consider following these ways to help men sleep better at night.
Gingko biloba extract has been found in studies to improve the performance and behavior of seniors with dementia. There is research on other herbs as well for brain health.
Psychological factors like depression and stress can negatively affect your aging process. Take steps to manage stress and treat depression. Maintain a good social network because social isolation also contributes to unhealthy brain aging. Join a club or social group, and continue to do things you enjoy.
Are you at risk?
In addition to following these ways to boost your brain health, having good health care is also important for supporting your brain health. Make sure you receive regular medical checkups and consider having your doctor run the 10 tests for men over 50.
Talk to you doctor if you notice any signs of dementia such as getting lost in familiar places, forgetting recent events, repeating questions or statements, loss of balance or repeated falls, confusion, or changes in your language abilities. If you have had any changes in your eating habits, hygiene, or personality, be aware that these are also warning signs of dementia.
Ju YE et al. Sleep and Alzheimer disease pathology–a bidirectional relationship. Rev Neurol 2014 Feb; 10(2):1151-9