Are you the CEO of your health? At Live Well 50, we are all about helping you to AGE STRONG! Modifying your lifestyle is one of the best ways to take charge of your health. In this blog, I will outline ways to stay cognitively sharp and reduce our chances of developing dementia by up to 40%. If you want to take your health to the next level, join Elizabeth and me at LiveWell50 today!
1. Life long learning
Higher education earlier on in life tends to “protect” our brain later in life. Stress education to our youth and become lifelong learners ourselves. Learn a new skill, pick up an instrument, learn to play chess, or pick up another language. We must “use it or lose it” when it comes to our brains. But learning new habits can be difficult and it is helpful to understand the difference between a “habit” and a “routine”.
2. Protect your head from injury
Do you participate in sportswear a head injury is possible? Rock climbing, Mt biking, skiing, and motorcycling are just a few examples of higher-risk activities that which wearing a helmet is strongly recommended. Head injuries can lead to cognitive changes and even dementia later in life.
3. Monitor your blood pressure
If you are not already, you should be monitoring your blood pressure at home to get a historic baseline. This is a great way to see if your blood pressure may be changing over time. Your systolic blood pressure should be under 130 mm. If you are on the border of hypertension, you should monitor your sodium levels. The daily recommendation of sodium is only 1,500 mg or about 1 teaspoon. Avoid processed foods as they often contain high levels of sodium and fat. Consider switching to a plant-based, anti-inflammatory diet.
4. Exercise daily
Moderate to vigorous activity daily for 30 minutes or longer. No excuses, no days off. I advocate a daily 30-minute walk first thing in the morning. Find a sport or activity you enjoy, then it won’t feel like such a burden. What’s good for your body is also good for your brain. Make sure your workout routine is well-rounded and that you have all 5 Pillars of Fitness included.
5. Type 2 Diabetes
Having type 2 diabetes puts you at a greater risk of developing dementia. Many cases of type 2 diabetes are caused by lifestyle choices. Monitoring your blood sugar levels, watching your weight, prescription medication, and daily exercises are all ways to help manage diabetes. Adding more vegetables to your diet is a great way to increase your overall health.
6. Limit your alcohol consumption
Excessive alcohol consumption has been linked to an increased chance of developing dementia. Limit your weekly intake to 21 units per week. That breaks down to 7-9 drinks per week. For example, a large glass of wine or a higher alcohol content beer has 3 units of alcohol per serving.
7. Healthy body mass index
Although not a perfect metric, BMI (body mass index) does give us general information about our health by simply entering your height and weight. Normal BMI is considered 18-25, overweight is 26-30, and greater than 30 is considered obese. Calculate your BMI now Another metric that may be a bit more beneficial is the Height to Waist ratio. Your waist should be less than half of your height. For example, if you are 6’2″ (74 inches) then your waist should be less than 37″. Using both BMI and Height to Waist ratio may be a good idea. But losing weight can be difficult. How to lose weight without cutting calories
8. Stop smoking!
Even secondhand smoke has been linked to an increased chance of dementia. Remember, it’s never too late to stop smoking even if you are a long-term smoker. 10 action steps for a healthier, longer life!
Long-term depression is a risk factor for developing dementia. Seek the help you need to try and resolve past trauma, talk to your doctor about medication if needed, and try to exercise daily. Studies show those who exercise daily are less likely to have depressive symptoms. Establishing a daily breath and meditation practice can also help to reduce anxiety and depression.
10. Social isolation
Maintaining active social connections is crucial as we age. Isolation can be as detrimental to our health as 15 cigarettes. Strong social connections appear to help us maintain strong cognitive abilities.
11. Air pollution
We may not be able to control where we live, but trying to limit our exposure to air-borne pollutants will limit our chances of developing dementia in the future. If you walk or jog, try to find a route that is not heavily traveled by cars. Better yet, find a trail to spend some quality time in nature. Also, getting a HEPA air purifier will be helpful if you spend a lot of time indoors.
12. Hearing loss
Hearing loss usually starts in middle age and progresses as we age. Make it a priority to have your hearing checked and protect yourself from loud noises with earplugs or noise-canceling headphones.