Researchers have been studying cognitive decline and dementia for decades, yet in many regards these common conditions still remain a mystery. Doctor’s can’t predict with any certainty who will or won’t develop dementia or experience cognitive decline, nor can they prescribe a one-size-fits-all prevention plan or solution.
But it’s not all bad news. Although there is no cure, there is a library of empirical evidence to suggest that some healthy changes can actually help older adults maintain cognitive health and reduce their dementia risk.
Ask your doctor and/or home care provider about incorporating the following options into your lifestyle:
A “Mediterranean” Diet
The nutrients you take into your body can play a protective role in helping to maintain cognitive health.
While there are no definitive dietary recommendations for preventing dementia, Epidemiology studies have shown that regular consumption of many foods found in a “Mediterranean diet” may be linked to slower cognitive decline and a reduced risk of Alzheimer’s.
The traditional Mediterranean diet is high in antioxidants and polyunsaturated fatty acid. You can find these nutrients in:
- Non-starchy vegetables (dark leafy greens, asparagus, carrots, tomatoes, and cauliflower)
- Nuts, whole grains and legumes
- Oily fish (like salmon, trout, tuna and mackerel)
- Low glycemic fruits (like strawberries, grapefruit, cantaloupe, oranges, and watermelon)
- Olive oil and other plant oils
- Red wine (in moderation)
Try not to feel intimidated by the list of ingredients. Cooking is a mentally stimulating activity that you can do with care giver or home care provider that’s both physically and cognitively rewarding.
Mentally and Socially Stimulating Activities
Speaking of stimulating activities: you might not think of playing cards with a friend as a healthy lifestyle choice; but the National Institute on Aging contends that that a socially active lifestyle can help lower the risk of developing dementia and cognitive decline.
By finding activities you enjoy, and participating in them in a social setting, you can take steps to maintain cognitive health while indulging in a little fun. Some activities shown to have positive effects on reducing the risk of dementia include: playing board games, dancing, playing a musical instrument, reading, and creative writing.
If you live in an urban or suburban community, you and/or your care giver can likely locate many such clubs especially for people your age.
A CVD Reduction Plan
Cardiovascular Disease (CVD) is one of the biggest modifiable risk factors for vascular dementia—the second most common type of dementia after Alzheimer’s. Symptoms and effects of CVD include hypertension, diabetes, heart disease, and high cholesterol.
If you have or are at risk of CVD, maintaining a proactive management plan with your doctor will benefit more than just your heart.
And on a related note; just quit smoking already. As if you needed another reason to kick the habit, the National Library of Medicine says that about 14% of all Alzheimer’s cases are potentially attributable to current smoking.3
Don’t be afraid to talk to your health and home care providers about prioritizing the maintenance of your cognitive health. Taking preventative steps now can only improve your quality of life later.