12 Ways to Dodge Dementia

Did you know that your brain starts to deteriorate decades before you have any symptoms? Losing your memory or developing brain fog in your 40s, 50s, 60s, 70s, or even 80s is not normal—it’s a sign of trouble. But it doesn’t mean you’re doomed to develop dementia.

By adopting the following brain-healthy habits, you can outsmart your genes, pump the brakes on brain aging, and even reverse memory loss.

By adopting brain-healthy habits, you can outsmart your genes, put the brakes on brain aging, and even reverse memory problems. Click To Tweet

12 HABITS TO PREVENT MEMORY LOSS

  1. Drink water.

Your brain is 80% water, so anything that dehydrates it (such as too much caffeine or alcohol) should be avoided. When you’re dehydrated, your brain has to work harder to perform cognitive functions.

A 2019 study on dehydration and cognitive performance found that being dehydrated had negative effects on short-term memory, attention, and more.

What’s surprising is that you don’t have to be severely dehydrated to experience cognitive problems. Research in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition found that being just 2% dehydrated lowers performance in tasks that involve memory skills and attention.

Brain-Healthy Habit: How much water should you drink? Aim for half your body weight in ounces. For example, if you weigh 150 pounds, drink 75 ounces of water each day.

  1. Get enough sleep.

Sleep is essential for learning and memory. While you sleep, your brain is hard at work consolidating what you learned that day to form memories.

Lack of sleep—whether it’s from obstructive sleep apnea, insomnia, restless legs syndrome, or other issues—impacts your memory in multiple ways. For example, a night of tossing and turning makes it harder to concentrate and absorb new information.

In addition, disrupted sleep interferes with your brain’s ability to process new learning, so it’s harder to remember it.

Findings from a 2020 study indicate that sleep deprivation leads to fragmented memory loss. This includes difficulty with episodic memory, which is a type of long-term memory.

Brain-Healthy Habit: Try to get at least 7-8 hours of restful sleep per night.

  1. Move your body.

Adults who are sedentary for more than 10 hours per day are at significantly increased risk for dementia, according to a 2023 study in JAMA. This means the more time you spend sitting at your computer, scrolling on Instagram, or driving, the more likely you are to develop memory problems.

Exercise has been found to increase the ability to generate new brain cells, which helps prevent brain aging or reverse aging. In particular, research shows that exercise-induced neurogenesis takes place in the hippocampus, a brain region involved in learning and memory.

In addition, physical activity can boost your energy, mood, and metabolism. It truly is the closest thing to a happiness pill that you will ever find.

Brain-Healthy Habit: Get moving on a daily basis. Engage in any activity you enjoy or simply walk for 30 minutes a day, but be sure to do it at a quick pace, as if you’re late for an appointment.

  1. Protect yourself from brain injuries.

Mounting evidence shows that memory loss is common in people who have experienced a traumatic brain injury. This includes mild concussions and minor bumps or blows to the head that don’t cause you to black out.

Brain-healthy habit: Wear a helmet when biking, skiing, or participating in other risky activities. Always hold the handrail when you go down a flight of stairs. Don’t text while you walk.

  1. Embrace your sense of meaning and purpose.

When life seems meaningless, it raises the risk for cognitive dysfunction. According to findings in the journal Neurology, having a general lack of interest in things increases the chances of developing dementia in older adults.

Finding your “why” in life can change that. Exciting research from 2021 indicates that having a strong sense of purpose is associated with reduced risk of dementia.

Brain-Healthy Habit: To find your purpose, ask yourself what you love to do and how it can help other people. In general, it’s helping others that gives life meaning.

  1. Keep your blood sugar balanced.

Blood sugar ups and downs can wreak havoc on your cognitive function. Low blood sugar levels can make you feel spacy and anxious. Consistently high levels can lead to diabetes, which is associated with increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease.

Try to maintain stable blood sugar levels throughout the day for better cognitive function. This will help you make better decisions about how to care for your brain and body.

Brain-Healthy Habit: Eat small amounts of protein throughout the day to help stabilize blood sugar levels.

  1. Maintain a healthy weight.

As your weight goes up, the size and function of your brain goes down. That’s according to an Amen Clinics study involving the analysis of 35,442 brain SPECT scans.

Having a higher BMI is associated with decreased blood flow in the brain, including in regions like the hippocampus, which is linked to Alzheimer’s disease.

Brain-Healthy Habit: Eat a healthy diet that’s focused on high-quality proteins, lots of vegetables and fruits, and complex carbohydrates such as sweet potatoes.

  1. Free yourself from toxins.

Everyday toxins, including drugs and alcohol, personal care products, and household cleaning products, can impair brain power.

Environmental toxins—such as mold, heavy metals, and biotoxins—may contribute to cognitive dysfunction and Alzheimer’s disease. For example, animal studies have found that toxic mold exposure can lead to inflammation in the brain and memory deficits in young mice.

Brain-Healthy Habit: Limit alcohol by consuming no more than 2-4 glasses a week. If you smoke, quit! Eat lots of antioxidants and super-nutrient foods to gain protection from brain-damaging free radicals.

  1. Become a lifelong learner.

When you stop learning, your brain starts dying. In a way, your brain is like a muscle—the more you use it, the stronger it gets!

Brain-Healthy Habit: Spend 15-20 minutes a day learning something new. Examples include learning how to speak a foreign language, playing a musical instrument, or taking on a new sport.

  1. Manage your stress.

Decades of research show that having chronic stress increases the risk of mild cognitive impairment (MCI), as well as Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia. On the contrary, gaining control of your stress protects your brain and memory.

Brain-Healthy Habit: Practice effective stress management techniques, such as meditation and ANT therapy (challenging your automatic negative thoughts).

  1. Know your important health numbers.

Having high levels of inflammation, blood sugar, BMI, and cholesterol have been linked to increased dementia risk. Knowing your health numbers and taking action to optimize them is a critical step in safeguarding your cognitive function.

Brain-Healthy Habit: Take nutritional supplements, including a multiple vitamin/mineral and omega-3 fatty acids. In addition, optimize your vitamin D levels.

  1. Learn about your brain health.

Knowledge is power. Brain-imaging studies with SPECT scans at Amen Clinics can show evidence of pathologies seen in Alzheimer’s disease up to 9 years before symptoms emerge.

Knowing if your brain is headed for trouble gives you time to take action to ward off memory loss and dementia.

Brain-Healthy Habit: Consider getting a SPECT scan and commit to incorporating brain-healthy habits into your daily life.

CHANGE YOUR BRAIN, SAVE YOUR MEMORY

By adopting these brain-healthy habits, you can change your brain and reduce your risk of dementia. Make brain health a priority in your life. Your memory is worth it.

Memory loss, mild cognitive impairment, and other mental health issues can’t wait. At Amen Clinics, we’re here for you. We offer in-clinic brain scanning and appointments, as well as mental telehealth, clinical evaluations, and therapy for adults, teens, children, and couples. Find out more by speaking to a specialist today at 888-288-9834 or visit our contact page here.

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