In this post, we'll look at a step-wise approach to ensure healthy brain aging. Small steps can make a big difference!
Patients frequently ask, "What can I do to reduce my risk of dementia?" Some patients even erroneously believe that they will inevitably succumb to dementia and there is nothing they can do to prevent it. The good news is that there are measures you can take to reduce your risk! Find the level that works for you, and when you’ve completed those bulletpoints, it’s time to Level Up!
- Getting moving! If you’re not exercising, start with any amount of exercise. Try for even 10 minutes a day, just walking in your neighborhood or local park. Park further away from the entrance to your office or a store. Take the stairs instead of the elevator. Any amount of exercise is better than none.
- Reduce or eliminate processed foods. Start by reading food labels and avoiding items with a long list of unrecognizable ingredients, and high levels of sugars, salts, and trans fats. Shop the periphery of the grocery store, focusing on fresh produce, lean meats and whole grains and nuts. Avoid pre-packaged items as much as possible.
- Reduce alcohol containing drinks. If you’re having 2 glasses of wine every night, try to take one night off, or even try to go down to 1 or 1½ glasses a night. Baby steps can make a difference.
- Keep thinking. Read books, listen to educational podcasts, play Sudoku, do crossword puzzles, play games that involve strategy and decision making.
Are you already doing these things? Then it’s time to Level Up!
- Exercise 150 minutes per week. This can be walking for 30 minutes, 5 days a week or 50 minutes 3 days a week. Join a gym or a pool and go before or after work. Physical activity staves off dementia!
- Adopt a Mediterranean diet. A Mediterranean diet emphasizes heart healthy foods such as olive oil, fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. These foods are rich in iron antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds that help protect the brain from damage. Additionally, the inclusion of fish, a prime source of omega-3 fatty acids can further support cognitive health by reducing the risk of cognitive decline and Alzheimer's disease.
- Decrease alcohol to less than 7 drinks a week.
- Challenge yourself mentally. Learn a new skill or take an online class for which you have to study.
Are you already at Level 2? Let’s set the bar even higher!
- Exercise 300 minutes per week. One hundred fifty minutes of exercise is good, but 300 minutes is even better. That equals one hour of exercise, 5 days a week.
- MIND diet. Similar to a Mediterranean diet, the MIND diet stands for Mediterranean-DASH Diet Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay and specifically targets the health of the aging brain. (See my separate blog post on the MIND diet).
- < 5 drinks per week. And guess what else? Women who consume five or fewer drinks per week also reduce their risk of breast cancer over women who drink more than this.
- Learn new things that require application. Learn a new language and practice speaking it. Learn a new computer skill that you will regularly use moving forward.
Aging does not have to be synonymous with cognitive decline. Many risk factors for dementia are modifiable, thereby reducing risk. It’s never too early to start adopting healthy habits that will translate into healthy aging. At Menopause Solutions, we help guide women of all ages onto pathways that will optimize their potential to age with good physical and brain health.