Like all other body parts, the brain can develop problems as you grow older. Dementia or Alzheimer’s are two common problems of old age. Although it cannot be prevented, certain activities can delay diseases of the brain.
Retirement often leads to many changes in your life. You may become less socially interactive, which could also mean a decrease in the social status you have come to enjoy. Your purpose in life also changes, and you may find that you are no longer important.
Preventing dementia or Alzheimer’s is not a well-developed science because the exact cause is unknown. Some diseases or strokes can increase the likelihood of developing dementia, and there may also be a genetic cause. What is known is that people who live a sedate life in isolation are more apt to develop the disease than those who exercise, eat right, and socialize.
Learning a new skill can be a powerful way to help prevent dementia. Although studies on its effectiveness continue, previous studies have shown it to be beneficial.
One study involving nearly 3,000 people over 65 focused on whether brain training could help with reasoning ability, memory, and how rapidly information is processed. The results showed that their mental skills improved – and they lasted for five years – at least.
Two things work together to help delay dementia. Your mind needs to be kept active and challenged. It may not prevent Alzheimer’s or dementia but it can delay it.
Keeping your brain engaged can be done in various ways. Some of them are even fun. Here are a few things you might do to keep your brain active:
- Play board games – do some with the grandkids, too – or with friends. You might even try learning some new games. Chess is an excellent game for this purpose.
- Learn something new. You could learn to play an instrument or a second language.
- Do puzzles of various kinds: crossword, sudoku, etc.
- Take educational courses or learn new skills online or at the local community college.
- Try your hand at online memory games.
Keeping your mind active may continue to build cognitive reserve. This is a term used to define the number of connections between brain cells – called synapses. It is believed that the more of these you have – which start with learning at an early age, the more resilient your brain is against diseases such as Alzheimer’s.
The resilience is increased because you have more brain connections – and losing a few will hardly be noticeable because you have more to spare.
The best way to prevent Alzheimer’s or dementia is to work to eliminate known health issues that may promote its development. High blood pressure in your 40s increases your risk of dementia. It can lead to blood clots and stroke that can damage the brain.
Hearing loss, smoking, and drinking are three things that can promote the development of dementia. Cutting back on smoking and drinking alcohol can help to reduce the likelihood that you will get dementia. Remember, though, that it cannot be prevented – only delayed.
Exercise is the one single thing that can help the most to prevent Alzheimer’s and increase longevity. It can eliminate obesity, help control high blood pressure, and prevent diabetes – and each one can promote dementia. Exercise is even more productive if you reduce your calorie intake and eat healthy meals.
Researchers also believe that exercise helps to develop new brain cells and connections. You can benefit from being able to learn more easily and see improvements in memory. Exercising at least 150 minutes per week is best, but less is better than none – if that is all you can do.