Dementia can be a scary thought. Who doesn’t know someone who is either caring for someone who has it, is struggling with it themselves, or may lost a parent or relative to dementia. You may be caring for someone with dementia yourself.
Modern medicine will tell us that some factors, like aging and genetics, are beyond your control. I’ll reserve my opinion on this for another article. The good news is many experts believe that lifestyle changes can drastically reduce your risk.
In fact, a recent study found one more way to help your brain stay healthy in your golden years. According to researchers at Yale University who studied a group of more than 4,000 adults aged 60 and above, those who held positive beliefs about aging had a 44 per cent lower risk of developing dementia than those who held negative beliefs.
The Yale researchers also found that gracefully accepting the aging process worked just as well for seniors with the APOE 4 gene that is strongly associated with developing chronic brain conditions. Just because people say “it runs in the family” doesn’t mean that you’re next. You can change your attitude and your habits to ensure that you will break the cycle. You can be the example for the rest of your family as well.
The key here is that dementia is not a normal part of aging, but a set of symptoms that often includes a decline in memory and other daily functions. You can protect yourself and your loved ones by learning how to embrace aging and practice a healthy lifestyle.
Strategies for Changing Your Attitude About Aging:
- Reframe your thoughts. You are totally in control of how you respond to situations, so replace negative beliefs with more affirming ones. Learn from setbacks and use hardships to make you stronger and braver. Be grateful for the challenges and make note of the lessons you learn from them.
- Stay connected. When people are isolated, there is often a cognitive decline. We weren’t meant to be alone. Make it a point to surround yourself with family and friends who nurture and encourage you. Get out and socialize. Ask for help when you need it. Do volunteer work or work on causes that are important to you.
- Laugh more. Try to see the humorous side of difficult events. Schedule time in your day to play with your grandchildren or watch a funny movie. Try some laughter yoga – which is yogic breathing combined with laughter. it is a great health practice, makes you feel better, and let’s face it – it’s a lot of fun!
- Advocate for aging. Studies also show that experiencing age discrimination can intensify negative beliefs about aging. Speak up when you see incidents of ageism at work or in the media. Be an advocate for those around you and for yourself. No matter what age you are now, hopefully you will be considered part of the senior community someday.
Other Strategies to Lower Your Risk of Dementia:
- Exercise regularly. Aim to work out at least 3 days a week for at least 30 minutes. Exercise can help to protect you from heart disease, stroke, and diabetes, which are some of the most common conditions that raise your risk for dementia.
- Don’t smoke or vape. Using tobacco harms your brain by interfering with your circulation. If you have had trouble giving up cigarettes in the past, try a different method or a combination of approaches. Hypnosis and energy work such as the emotion code and body code are both very healthy ways to stop the habit.
- Maintain a healthy weight. If you are overweight, shedding excess pounds benefits your brain as well as your body. Even a modest 5% loss can have dramatic effects on how you feel – your blood pressure, and your inflammation levels.
- Limit alcohol. Excessive use of alcohol makes you more vulnerable to dementia. The Centers for Disease Control recommends no more than one drink a day for women and two for men. It’s okay to have more now and then, but try to avoid using alcohol on a daily basis.
- Challenge your brain. Exercise strengthens your brain just like lifting weights builds your muscles. Enjoy word puzzles or Sudoku. Study a foreign language or practice playing a musical instrument. Play brain games with friends online.
- Check your hearing. Scientists are discovering more evidence about the link between hearing loss and dementia. Many experts believe that this is because hearing impairment causes social isolation and also makes the brain work harder to process sounds, leaving fewer resources available for other mental activities.
- Sit less. Prolonged sitting can take its toll on your mental and physical health even if you exercise regularly. The most effective strategy may be to shift positions often among sitting, standing, and walking. If you must sit to do your job, set a timer and get up and walk around the room or do something that requires movement every hour for a short period of time.
- Get rid of the processed foods. Try to eat as cleanly as possible. There are so many additives in our foods, chemical food dyes, and added sugar that are not good for our brains at any age. Try to avoid genetically modified foods, and choose organic whenever possible to get away from the pesticides and other chemicals. Stay away from sugar, white flour, and any foods where you may have sensitivities. Our digestive system is often referred to as our second brain. You need to keep it healthy, too.
Stay mentally sharp and active throughout your day. A positive attitude and a healthy lifestyle will give you more years to spend with your loved ones and enjoy your favorite pastimes.
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