5 Brain Fitness Tips to Help Slow Alzheimer’s

From the Silverado newsletter

There is no surefire route to brain health, but research is pointing to some specific activities and behaviors as recommended components that help a brain-healthy lifestyle. Below is a quick list of guidelines to help you live a healthier lifestyle and stack the odds in favor of keeping your gray matter fit.

It is important to note that the brain changes of Alzheimer’s and some other dementias begin decades before symptoms appear. While certain steps may help change the  progression or pathologies of dementia, an earlier start most likely means better results.

  1. EXERCISE  20 minutes a day (10 minutes 2-3 times a day, though more is better) of aerobic activity has been shown to increase hippocampal volume. The hippocampus is where Alzheimer’s starts, so added volume there is a big plus.
  2. MEDITATE/MANAGE STRESS  Research has shown that meditative practices (mindfulness meditation, yoga, etc.) practiced for even just a few minutes a day can increase bloodflow throughout the brain, particularly in the all-important hippocampus. In addition, meditators showed decreases in blood pressure and stress hormones.
  3. WATCH YOUR DIET  A healthy heart and a healthy mind are very closely related. A Mediterranean diet featuring lots of fish, lean proteins, fresh vegetables and olive oil is a good start, and avoiding excessive amounts of saturated fats, salt, dairy, fatty meats and fried foods helps all the more.
  4. LEARN NEW THINGS  “Use it or lose it” is a very appropriate term for brain fitness. Learning new skills or picking up an additional language helps create more connections within the brain, building a “cognitive reserve” to help in the event of dementia. While crossword puzzles may be somewhat helpful, recent research has shown that they may not be as effective as previously thought.
  5. JOIN A GROUP  Social connections are rapidly rising through the ranks of what’s important to maintain brain health. Activities undertaken with others, be it gatherings, church or even just regular outings with friends, may help keep your brain happier and healthier. Volunteering and other meaningful forms of interaction have shown to produce even greater benefits.