Many middle-aged adults are concerned about developing memory loss later in life. While there is no guaranteed way to prevent memory loss, researchers are finding out more and more about how the brain works and how to keep it healthy. Here are five important steps you can take to maintain a healthy brain:
- Eat right
Choose vegetables, fish, eggs, legumes (lentils, beans), nuts, olive oil and fruits. Limit red meat, alcohol and sugar. Avoid processed and packaged food as much as possible. A healthful diet will also reduce the risk for diabetes, which is linked to Alzheimer’s disease.
We can’t stress enough the importance of all types of exercise. If you haven’t exercised for a while, start by walking. Aim for 30 minutes of exercise 5 days a week. Talk with your doctor before you pursue any formal exercise program.
- Stay socially engaged
The leader of the Michigan Alzheimer’s Disease Center’s (MADC) Biostatistics and Data Core, Dr. Hiroko Dodge, recently published a research paper demonstrating that people are good for our brain–and that those with a social network are less likely to develop dementia. So, get out and about. Talk with others. Join groups. Maintain your involvement in clubs, organizations or your religious community. If you prefer staying at home, make sure you have a pet or at least one or two friends or family members with whom you can socialize and have fun. Positive interaction with others stimulates the brain and helps it stay sharp. Social engagement also protects against anxiety, stress and depression, which can negatively impact brain function.
- Get enough sleep
We tend to forget about the importance of sleep. While we sleep, our brain is cleansed and refreshed. Research shows that getting 7 to 9 hours of sleep a night is not a luxury, it’s crucial for a healthy life.
- Challenge your brain
The old saying “use it or lose it” applies to your memory and other cognitive functions as well. Working, volunteering, reading, doing puzzles, playing instruments and learning new skills are great ways to keep your brain healthy and active.
Take the next step
- Read more about Michigan Alzheimer’s Disease Center (MADC) research.
- Learn about participating in an MADC research study.
Kristin Cahill, LLMSW, develops, implements and evaluates the Michigan Alzheimer’s Disease Center education initiatives, including the U-M Memory Connection service and the MADC website. She is passionate about partnering with those who are experiencing memory changes and their families in ways that promote their autonomy, dignity and peace of mind.
The Michigan Alzheimer’s Disease Center (MADC) was established at the University of Michigan Health System through affiliation with the Department of Neurology and aims to conduct and promote research on Alzheimer’s disease and related disorders, ensure state-of-the-art care for individuals experiencing cognitive impairment or dementia, and enhance the public’s and health professionals’ understanding of dementia through education and outreach efforts. The infrastructure of the Center stems from a 20-year history as an NIH-funded Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center.