With dementia and Alzheimer’s disease on the rise, you may be looking for ways to ward off this scary condition. Dementia refers to the degeneration or breakdown in the functions of the brain that include speech, memory, and personality. According to the website Dementia, some factors that cause this condition include brain injury, tumors, infections, and strokes. Unfortunately, some forms of dementia, such as Alzheimer’s disease, have an unknown cause. Medical researchers continue to seek answers regarding dementia, its causes, and its treatment. Meanwhile, you may want to consider simple lifestyle changes that may reduce your risk of this condition.
9. Sleep on Your Side
You probably already recognize the brain-boosting effects of adequate sleep. However, the idea that the position you sleep in affects your brain health may be surprising. It may sound simple, but sleeping on your side instead of your stomach or back may help prevent dementia. Amyloid plaques in the brain are a hallmark of Alzheimer’s disease. A study in the Journal of Neuroscience suggests that sleeping on your side may allow your body to more easily clear amyloid from the brain. Other benefits of sleeping on your side include easier breathing, less strain on your back, and a decreased risk of acid reflux.
8. Get Some Sun
Getting outside for some sunshine and the vitamin D it provides may help ward off dementia. Some studies suggest that individuals with low levels of vitamin D have a higher risk of Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia. It is important to protect your skin against excessive exposure to the damaging rays of the sun. However, most individuals will benefit from a few minutes of sun exposure before applying sunscreen or heading into the shade. For a healthy dose of vitamin D, aim to get 15 to 30 minutes of time in midday sun several times each week.
7. Set and Work Toward Achieving Life Goals
Keeping your brain active and enjoying the stimulus of achieving new goals may also help prevent brain degeneration. If you find yourself in a rut or feel boredom setting in, it may be time to set new life goals and work toward achieving them. Stimulate your brain cells by taking up a new hobby, learning a new skill, or taking a new class. You may want to check out a book club, take up tennis, or volunteer for a cause that is close to your heart. Having goals gives individuals a sense of purpose. Meanwhile, learning new things can help keep your brain sharp and active.
6. Beware of Certain Medications
You should never discontinue a prescription medication without first discussing it with your physician. However, it can be helpful to know which medications are linked to an increased risk of brain degeneration and memory loss. A study in the Journal of the American Medical Association suggests that anticholinergic drugs may increase the risk of dementia in persons over the age of 55. Anticholinergic drugs are medications that are used to treat conditions such as an overactive bladder, Parkinson’s disease, motion sickness, nausea, and vomiting. Speak with your doctor if you have concerns about any of the medications you are taking.
5. Refrain from Using Pesticides
The chemicals you spray on your lawn or around your house may damage your brain cells as well as rid your property of pests. Studies suggest a link between pesticide usage and the risk of Alzheimer’s disease. Further research is necessary to reveal a direct link. However, it stands to reason that potent chemicals that cause death to insects and pests may have harmful effects on your brain. Penn State Extension lists traps, sticky barriers, and caulking as alternatives to pesticides. Furthermore, products such as horticultural oils, borax, garlic, and vinegar may be less toxic to humans.
4. Get Out for Some Exercise
Never underestimate the benefits of fresh air and exercise on your body and your brain. The Alzheimer’s Society suggests that regular physical exercise is one of the best things you do to lower your risk of dementia. Furthermore, a Swedish study in Neurology tracked women over a period of 44 years. This study found that those who engaged in regular exercise had a decreased risk of dementia. Physical exercise keeps your heart pumping and delivers oxygen-rich blood to your tissues, including your brain. Getting out for a 20 to 30-minute walk three times a week can strengthen your body, lower your blood pressure, improve your mood, and invigorate your mind.
3. Take Care of Your Teeth
Good oral health affects so much more than just your teeth. The Journal of the American Geriatrics Society reported on a study that suggests poor oral care is linked to dementia. Tooth decay, gum disease, and bad breath are all symptoms of poor dental hygiene that can affect your overall health. To take care of your pearly whites, be sure to brush at least twice a day and floss regularly. Visit your dentist every six months for a tooth cleaning and evaluation. In doing so, you may be protecting your brain health as well as your teeth.
2. Enjoy Nutritious Foods
You are what you eat. Therefore, consuming wholesome, nutrient-dense foods provides your brain with the tools it needs for proper functioning. In caring for your body, it is crucial to furnish it with lean proteins, healthy whole grains, antioxidant-packed fruits and vegetables, and fiber-rich legumes. The foods that fuel your body also fuel your brain. Avoid consuming the empty calories found in white flour, fast food, processed foods, and soft drinks. Your waistline, as well as your brain, will reap the rewards of healthy eating.
1. Avoid Excessive Amounts of Copper
Copper is a mineral that benefits the body through its effects on energy production, iron metabolism, and the manufacture of brain neurotransmitters. However, an excess of copper can have severe and harmful health consequences. Studies suggest copper may play a role in the development of dementia. If your home has copper pipes, you may be at risk for the high copper levels that may trigger Alzheimer’s disease. In this case, you may want to test your water for high levels of copper. The Water Systems Council website is a good place to start if you are looking for water testing resources.