Reduce your risk of cognitive decline

1/10/2018, 9:16 a.m.
Adopting key lifestyle changes to benefit your brain in 2018.

In 2018, the most popular New Year’s resolutions among many

will be focused on living healthier lives. In addition to achieving healthier

bodies, the Alzheimer’s Association Illinois Chapter encourages people to strive to

achieve healthy brains in the New Year.

More than 220,000 people are living with Alzheimer’s disease in Illinois.

Alzheimer’s is the 6th leading cause of death in the U.S. and the only one in the

nation's top 10 that cannot be prevented, treated or cured. However, growing

evidence indicates that people may reduce their risk of cognitive decline by making

key lifestyle changes. Cognitive decline is a deterioration in memory or cognition

that is, to some extent, expected with age. Age-related cognitive decline

is different from dementia in that it is not severe enough to interfere with daily


The following is a collection of tips to reduce one’s risk of cognitive decline:

· Break a sweat. Engage in regular cardiovascular exercise that elevates your heart

rate and increases blood flow to the brain and body. Several studies have found an

association between physical activity and reduced risk of cognitive decline.

· Hit the books. Formal education in any stage of life will help reduce your risk of

cognitive decline and dementia. For example, take a class at a local college,

community center or online.

· Butt out. Evidence shows that smoking increases risk of cognitive decline.

Quitting smoking can reduce that risk to levels comparable to those who have not


· Follow your heart. Evidence shows that risk factors for cardiovascular disease and

stroke — obesity, high blood pressure and diabetes — negatively impact your

cognitive health. Take care of your heart, and your brain just might follow.

· Heads up! Brain injury can raise your risk of cognitive decline and dementia. Wear

a seat belt, use a helmet when playing contact sports or riding a bike, and take

steps to prevent falls.

· Fuel up right. Eat a healthy and balanced diet that is lower in fat and higher in

vegetables and fruit to help reduce the risk of cognitive decline. Although research

on diet and cognitive function is limited, certain diets, including Mediterranean

and Mediterranean-DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension), may contribute to

risk reduction.

· Catch some Zzz’s. Not getting enough sleep due to conditions like insomnia or

sleep apnea may result in problems with memory and thinking.

· Take care of your mental health. Some studies link a history of depression with

increased risk of cognitive decline, so seek medical treatment if you have symptoms

of depression, anxiety or other mental health concerns. Also, try to manage stress.

· Buddy up. Staying socially engaged may support brain health. Pursue social

activities that are meaningful to you. Find ways to be part of your local community,

or just share activities with friends and family.

· Stump yourself. Challenge and activate your mind. Build a piece of furniture.

Complete a jigsaw puzzle. Do something artistic. Play games, such as bridge, that

make you think strategically. Challenging your mind may have short and long-term

benefits for your brain.

For more information about brain health and reducing your risk of cognitive decline,

visit alz.org/brainhealth.