Prevent Alzheimer’s Disease with 4 Brain-Boosting Habits
If you ask the very old in the blue zones region of Ikaria how they live to be 100, they might say it’s the leisurely pace of island life, the ocean breeze, the wine consumed with friends, wild herbal tea, or perhaps, as one Ikarian woman put it, “We just forget to die.” Their extreme longevity is a combination of many lifestyle habits, leading them to experience a life virtually free from age-related diseases, including dementia, which affects more than 5 million people in the United States.
While there is currently no cure and no single silver bullet to prevent dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, there is a combination of many simple lifestyle factors that can help you live a longer, better life — and it’s never too late to start. The good news? These four habits are ones you’ll actually enjoy.
Become a Master (in just about anything!)
Learn a language, pick up an instrument, take a class, or find a new hobby. Challenging yourself to master new skills can trigger pathways that help you maintain cognitive function into old age. No matter your education or income, learning something new, reading the newspaper, or even watching YouTube videos to learn how to garden can protect you from a decline in cognitive ability. Researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health noted that the type of activity did not seem to matter when it came to cognitive benefits. Find something that you enjoy doing and let it enhance your life and boost your brainpower.
Your weekly happy hour is good for more than just your social circle. Studies show moderate drinkers have a lower chance of mortality and an increased chance of maintaining cognitive abilities into old age. Red wine, particularly Cannonau from Sardinia, is a great choice due to its high resveratrol content.
While champagne doesn’t contain the flavonoids that help make red wine beneficial, one study found that bubbly contains high levels of phenolics, which stimulate the areas of the brain that are associated with memory.
Eat Like You’re Greek
Similar to the traditional Mediterranean diet, Ikarians eat wild greens, beans, nuts, seeds, fruits, whole grains, and olive oil. Many of these foods are high in folate, which has been shown to improve cognitive processes. Olive oil, nuts, and seeds are a great source of omega 3s, which support healthy brain cell structure, since the brain is composed of nearly 60 percent fatty tissues.
“The best diet for brain health is full of whole foods like greens, legumes, berries, and whole grains, and is very low in animal fats, saturated fats, and salt.”—Drs. Sherzai, Alzheimer’s Prevention Program, Loma Linda Medical Center
Chronic stress leads to inflammation and is the foundation for every age-related disease, including Alzheimer’s and dementia. Centenarians in the blue zones regions of the world have effective ways to manage stress on a daily basis. For Sardinians, this means a glass of wine and a chat with friends at the end of the day. For Seventh-Day Adventists in Loma Linda, this means a quiet nature walk during Sabbath. As an alternative to downshifting at happy hour, try meditating. Even just 10 minutes each day can improve your outlook and lower stress. Researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital conducted a mindfulness meditation study over an eight-week period and found that participants increased the amount of gray matter density in the learning and memory area of their brains.
According to the Alzheimer’s Association, “One study reported that leisure activities that combine physical, mental, and social activity are the most likely to prevent dementia.” Doing any one of the above things can help reduce your risk of developing dementia or Alzheimer’s Disease, but in combination as a part of a healthy lifestyle, the effects can compound, making your brain even more resistant to cognitive decline.