Thinking about your mental fitness? Many everyday habits and conditions can impact our brain power — up or down. Memory lapses can occur at any age, and aging alone is generally not a cause of mental decline.
When significant memory loss occurs as we age, it is likely due to physical disorders, brain injury or neurological illness. Many studies indicate we can help protect our brain health and reduce dementia risk with basic good health habits.
Do your best to:
• Stay physically active. People who regularly exercise throughout life are less likely to experience a decline in mental function as they age and have a lower risk of developing dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease.
• Get adequate sleep. For body and brain health, we need seven to nine consecutive hours of sleep every 24 hours.
• Manage stress and guard brain health and recall. Your brain is similar to a muscle; use it or lose it. Choose enjoyable mental activities that may boost brain power, such as doing crossword puzzles, reading for learning or taking classes.
• Socialize. Regular interaction with family, friends, coworkers and others helps us manage stress or depression; both may contribute to memory loss.
• Choose a Mediterranean-style diet. Studies suggest those who do may be less likely to develop cognitive decline compared to people who follow a typical Western diet. Foods in the Mediterranean eating pattern include vegetables, fruit, whole grains, legumes, fish, olive oil, dairy, chicken, eggs and herbs, while reducing highly processed foods, sweets and red meat.
Habits to avoid: If you drink, limit alcohol use to no more than one drink a day for women or two drinks for men. Don’t smoke. And avoid long periods of sitting. Get up and move frequently.
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