Commemorate Alzheimer’s and Brain Awareness Month in June by taking care of your brain.
The evidence is mounting: Central New York can reduce its risk of cognitive decline by making key lifestyle changes. That is the conclusion of a new research summary published in the June 2015 issue of Alzheimer’s & Dementia: The Journal of the Alzheimer’s Association.
“The number of people in New York with Alzheimer’s disease is projected to increase by 21.1 percent over the next decade,” said Catherine James, Alzheimer’s Association, Central New York Chapter Chief Executive Officer, said. “Without a cure, the best way we can reduce our risk of developing Alzheimer’s or other form of dementia is to take better care of our brains.”
With this in mind, the Alzheimer’s Association offers 10 Ways to Love Your Brain, tips that may reduce the 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 smoked.
- 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 risk reduction.
- 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 dementia, 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 – if you love animals, consider volunteering at a local shelter. If you enjoy singing, join a local choir or help at an afterschool program. 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.
In addition to reducing your risk of cognitive decline, these tips may also reduce your risk of dementia. Evidence for reducing risk of dementia is currently strongest in relation to formal education and the avoidance of head injury; other tips show indication of possibly reducing risk. Alzheimer’s disease, the most common form of dementia, is one of the nation’s largest public health crises. Alzheimer’s is an irreversible neurological disease that impairs cognition, orientation and functional capacity, and it is the only cause of death among the top 10 life-threatening conditions in the United States that cannot be prevented, cured or even slowed.
Cognitive decline is a deterioration in memory or cognition. Although some cognitive decline is expected with age, it is not yet known how this may directly relate to dementia.
Given the growing evidence that people can help reduce their risk of cognitive decline, and in recognition of Alzheimer’s & Brain Awareness Month this June, the Alzheimer’s Association is launching a new brain health education program, Healthy Habits for a Healthier You, available through the Central New York Chapter.
In addition to recommending these healthy habits, the Alzheimer’s Association is asking the community to come together and help fight Alzheimer’s disease during Alzheimer’s & Brain Awareness Month by doing the following:
- Take the Purple Pledge at alz.org.
- Join the Chapter in wearing purple on June 21, and send photos of yourself, family, friends and co-workers wearing purple via Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc. with the hashtags #ENDALZ and #GoPurple.
- Participate in The Longest Day®, a sunrise-to-sunset event to honor those facing Alzheimer’s disease with strength, passion and endurance. Visit alz.org today to start a team to raise funds and awareness.
- Observe the lighting of Downtown Syracuse’s buildings in purple during Father’s Day Weekend (June 19-21). Four Downtown buildings — KeyBank, National Grid (pending the completion of building renovations), Onondaga Tower, and Syracuse’s City Hall — will take the Purple Pledge in commemoration of the events.
- Buy a Toyota. Throughout June, Toyota’s New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut service customers will be invited to make a donation to the Alzheimer’s Association at checkout in support of Alzheimer’s & Brain Awareness Month and The Longest Day®, a sunrise-to-sunset event to raise awareness and funds for the Association. Customers can also learn about The Longest Day from posters on display in dealerships. All donations will help advance the Association’s care, support and research efforts.