By Barbara Goll, Community Liaison Educator and Nutritionist
Most polls consistently show that people fear losing their memory and mind more than anything else, even death. Our brains are the very essence of our very being. Today, 5.3 million people are living with Alzheimer’s disease, and we are predicted to reach 15 million by 2050. Alzheimer’s disease currently has no cure and medications offer only a temporary solution for some of the symptoms that are associated with the disease. So, what are we to do? Plenty!
We can start now, at any age, with any diagnosis, and sharpen brain function to avoid memory loss with making the following lifestyle changes:
- Increase movement and exercise. Try not to be sedentary for too long and get up and move. We can all can think of ways they can add movement to our lives whether it be short bursts of exercise, taking steps instead of elevator, parking further away from stores, or increasing time doing enjoyable hobbies such as gardening or walking.
- Make food choices for nutrient density. Get the most “bang for your buck” by eating foods with the most nutrients and the least number of calories. Good choices include leafy greens, colorful vegetables and fruits, whole grain starches, healthy oils, nuts and seeds and lean meats. Avoid processed foods, saturated and trans fats, and sugar. What we eat directly impacts how we experience life.
- Maintain strong family and social connections. Socialness creates a strong sense of purposefulness and belonging. Join a group, club, or social organization. Volunteer for something that has meaning to you and continue to be present for family get-togethers.
- Keep your brain active. Learn new skills or consider switching hands to do routine tasks such as brushing your teeth. This creates new connections and stimulates the brain while challenging and inspiring you. Participate in activities that are mentally stimulating.
- Give your body the rest it needs. Set a target of at least 7 hours of sleep and frequent naps to allow the brain to remove waste and refresh itself.
- Destress your life and consider a slower pace. Do our daily schedules have to be so vigorous with little down time? Can adjustments be made to allow more time for things that bring us joy and a slower the pace of your life? As it is often said, “Take time to smell the roses.”
Alzheimer’s disease develops when our brain becomes a product of how we move, what we eat, our social nature, how we challenge ourselves, our quality of sleep and our ability to manage stress. Take steps now to improve your lifestyle choices.