Reduce your risk of cognitive decline
1/10/2018, 9:16 a.m.
In 2018, the most popular New Year’s resolutions among many
will be focused on living healthier lives. In addition to achieving healthier
bodies, the Alzheimer’s Association Illinois Chapter encourages people to strive to
achieve healthy brains in the New Year.
More than 220,000 people are living with Alzheimer’s disease in Illinois.
Alzheimer’s is the 6th leading cause of death in the U.S. and the only one in the
nation's top 10 that cannot be prevented, treated or cured. However, growing
evidence indicates that people may reduce their risk of cognitive decline by making
key lifestyle changes. Cognitive decline is a deterioration in memory or cognition
that is, to some extent, expected with age. Age-related cognitive decline
is different from dementia in that it is not severe enough to interfere with daily
The following is a collection of tips to reduce one’s risk of cognitive decline:
· Break a sweat. Engage in regular cardiovascular exercise that elevates your heart
rate and increases blood flow to the brain and body. Several studies have found an
association between physical activity and reduced risk of cognitive decline.
· Hit the books. Formal education in any stage of life will help reduce your risk of
cognitive decline and dementia. For example, take a class at a local college,
community center or online.
· Butt out. Evidence shows that smoking increases risk of cognitive decline.
Quitting smoking can reduce that risk to levels comparable to those who have not
· Follow your heart. Evidence shows that risk factors for cardiovascular disease and
stroke — obesity, high blood pressure and diabetes — negatively impact your
cognitive health. Take care of your heart, and your brain just might follow.
· Heads up! Brain injury can raise your risk of cognitive decline and dementia. Wear
a seat belt, use a helmet when playing contact sports or riding a bike, and take
steps to prevent falls.
· Fuel up right. Eat a healthy and balanced diet that is lower in fat and higher in
vegetables and fruit to help reduce the risk of cognitive decline. Although research
on diet and cognitive function is limited, certain diets, including Mediterranean
and Mediterranean-DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension), may contribute to
· Catch some Zzz’s. Not getting enough sleep due to conditions like insomnia or
sleep apnea may result in problems with memory and thinking.
· Take care of your mental health. Some studies link a history of depression with
increased risk of cognitive decline, so seek medical treatment if you have symptoms
of depression, anxiety or other mental health concerns. Also, try to manage stress.
· Buddy up. Staying socially engaged may support brain health. Pursue social
activities that are meaningful to you. Find ways to be part of your local community,
or just share activities with friends and family.
· Stump yourself. Challenge and activate your mind. Build a piece of furniture.
Complete a jigsaw puzzle. Do something artistic. Play games, such as bridge, that
make you think strategically. Challenging your mind may have short and long-term
benefits for your brain.
For more information about brain health and reducing your risk of cognitive decline,