PHOTOGRAPH: Ocskay Bence Mor, 123rf.com
1. Exercise more
Regular cardiovascular exercise has been proven in multiple studies to increase cerebral blood flow, according to Dr Adeline Ng, consultant at the National Neuroscience Institute’s Department of Neurology.
The Alzheimer’s Disease Association recommends brisk walking, jogging, swimming, tai-chi, dancing or yoga – anything that gets the body moving and the heart pumping. It says such physical exercises will keep the blood flowing and encourage the growth of fresh brain cells.
2. Try a Mediterranean diet
Studies have found evidence that this helps reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s. Such a diet incorporates less red meat, more oily fish (including omega-3 fish oils), vegetables, fruits and grains, and less alcohol, according to Dr Ng.
The Alzheimer’s Disease Association recommends having a generally balanced and healthy diet with sufficient vitamins. It advises reducing salt and sugar intake, and eating low-fat foods.
3. Take care of your heart
What is good for the heart is also good for the brain, says the association. It recommends living a healthy lifestyle to avoid contracting heart disease, high blood pressure and stroke, all of which are risk factors of dementia.
“Controlling cardiovascular risk factors like diabetes and high cholesterol, controlling intake of alcohol and refraining from smoking all reduce the risk of vascular dementia,” says Dr Ng.
4. Learn to cope with stress
A 2014 study published in the journal Neurology found that middle-aged women dealing with long-term stress and an introverted personality are at a higher risk of developing dementia.
Manage stress adequately, advises Dr Ng. “Participate in activities such as meditation, mindfulness therapy and yoga, for example.”
5. Connect with others
Interacting socially with others encourages you to use multiple cognitive domains such as language, attention, multi-tasking and memory, according to Dr Ng.
“Social engagement and intellectual stimulation train your brain to do new things and open up new neuronal connections,” says Dr Ng.
The association encourages interacting and communicating with family members, friends, and neighbours. Be a volunteer, join a club or go travelling.
6. Seek help when you feel down
Depression is a common symptom among people with Alzheimer’s, especially during the early and middle stages. Symptoms include apathy, social withdrawal, loss of interest in hobbies, and feelings of hopelessness.
“Do not be afraid to seek help for mood symptoms such as depression and anxiety – conditions left untreated may lead to a higher incidence of cognitive impairment,” says Dr Ng.
7. Challenge your mind
Keep your brain active through activities which require some mental stimulation, says the association. It recommends challenging your brain daily by reading, writing, doing crossword or jigsaw puzzles, and playing card games. You can also take a course or learn a new skill.
“Do not stick to old habits but do new things as much as possible, such as learning a new language or instrument, trying out different routes, or preparing new recipes for cooking or baking,” says Dr Ng.
8. Monitor your numbers
Keep tabs on your body mass index, blood pressure, cholesterol and sugar levels, and make sure they fall within an acceptable range, advises the association.
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It recommends going for regular medical check-ups and reviews, and seeking treatment early when complications like obesity or high cholesterol surface. It says to be compliant with your medication regimen, and change your lifestyle for the better by eating right and staying mentally and physically active.
9. Cut the bad habits
Avoid unhealthy lifestyle habits, says the association. It says to restrict alcohol intake, limit or quit smoking, and reduce stress and have sufficient hours of sleep.
It also recommends reducing your risk of developing dementia by keeping up with new findings about dementia prevention.
10. Mind your safety
Take precautions to avoid head injuries and falls, says the association. Wear a seat belt in the car, keep your house clutter-free, and always put on safety gear (for example, a helmet when cycling) to protect your head from serious injury in any sports activity.