If you are an elderly individual or care for an elderly relative, you may be concerned about dementia. Although many factors, like aging and genetics, cannot be controlled, lifestyle changes can reduce your risk by up to 30 percent or more.
Researchers at Yale University found another way to help your brain stay healthy in your golden years. Their results demonstrated that having a positive attitude toward aging could cut your risk of dementia in half.
A study conducted by the University of Washington School of Medicine found that accepting the aging process gracefully works just as well for those seniors who carry the Apolipoprotein E gene, which is strongly associated with chronic brain conditions.
Dementia is not a natural part of aging, but a set of symptoms that frequently includes declines in memory and in other daily functions.
You can protect yourself and your loved ones by cultivating healthy habits and learning how to embrace aging.
Effective Strategies for Changing Attitudes Toward Aging:
- Reframe your thoughts. Your actions and reactions are in your hands, so maintain positive attitudes as you attempt to cope with challenging situations. Learn to use hardships to develop strength and courage.
- Stay connected. Surround yourself with friends and family who will nurture and support you; ask for help when you need it.
- Laugh more. Try not to take difficult situations too seriously. Schedule time for your grandchildren to play with you or for you to watch a funny movie.
- Advocate for aging. Studies have also shown that experiencing age prejudice at work or in the media can further a person’s negative attitude toward old age. Speak up when you see incidents of ageism on the job or in the local media.
Other strategies for lowering risk of dementia include:
- Exercise regularly. Strive to exercise at least three days a week for 30 minutes. Physical activity can significantly reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke and diabetes, which are several of the most common conditions that increase a person’s risk for dementia.
- Quit smoking. A tobacco addiction damages your brain by interfering with its circulation. If you have had difficulty quitting cigarettes in the past, try a different approach or a mixture of approaches.
- Lose weight. Shedding excess pounds is beneficial to both your brain and body. Even a 5 percent weight loss can be very dramatic.
- Limit alcohol. Drinking excessive amounts of alcohol increases your risk of dementia. The Centers for Disease Control recommend drinking a maximum of one drink a day for women and two for men.
- Challenge your brain. Exercise builds your brain, just as weightlifting builds your muscles. Engage in word games or Sudoku, or learn another language or play a musical instrument.
- Check your hearing. Scientists are discovering more and more evidence about the link between hearing loss and dementia. Many experts believe that this is because hearing loss reduces human contact and makes the brain work harder to process sounds, which leaves fewer resources for other mental activities.
- Sit less. According to the American Heart Association, prolonged sitting can harm your mental and physical health even if you exercise regularly. Changing positions often between sitting, standing, and walking may be the most effective strategy.
- Spot early signs. As a first symptom of dementia, memory loss, difficulty concentrating, and confusion frequently appear early on. Communication with your doctor and regular check-ups can often assist in delaying further signs and symptoms.
Stay mentally sharp and active by lowering your risk of dementia. Positive attitude and a healthy lifestyle will give you more years with your family and friends and more time to enjoy your favorite activities.
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