Fighting Cognitive Decline

Fighting Cognitive Decline

Having a well-balanced diet, getting regular exercise and maintaining a healthy weight are known to help reduce your risk of developing dementia. But new research shows that there are other, more proactive ways to fight cognitive decline and potentially slow down the progression of Alzheimer's disease.

Researchers studied 1,184 older adults in the UK. They assessed their childhood and adult ages to see how they had performed in terms of their educational level, what jobs they held and their participation in "enriching leisure activities" such as clubs, social activities and volunteering.

Exercise Regularly

Exercise is one of the most effective ways to fight cognitive decline, because it increases blood flow to your brain and boosts the growth of new cells. It also releases brain chemicals (endorphins) that increase your focus and enhance mental clarity.

In addition, studies show that exercising regularly can help you sleep better, think more clearly, and avoid developing dementia. It can also give you a sense of achievement and self-worth.

The most important thing is to get at least 150 minutes a week of moderate-intensity physical activity, or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity activity. To achieve this goal, you can try things like walking, jogging, dancing, swimming, or playing tennis.

Exercise helps your body maintain or improve memory and thinking skills by stimulating several physiological changes including reductions in insulin resistance, inflammation and the production of certain growth factors. These chemicals affect the health of brain cells, the growth of new blood vessels in the brain and the abundance and survival of new cells.

Eat Green Leafy Vegetables

Leafy green vegetables, such as spinach, kale and collard greens, are packed with nutrients that may help protect your brain. They are high in vitamin K, which sharpens memory; beta carotene, which helps prevent damage from free radicals; and folate, which is necessary for preventing stress hormone cortisol from damaging the brain.

The study found that healthy adults who ate the most greens had a slower rate of cognitive decline than those who ate the least. Even after accounting for other factors that can impact brain health — age, education level, physical and cognitive activities, smoking and alcohol consumption — the top quintile of green leafy vegetable intake was associated with slower cognitive decline by 0.05 standardized units per year compared to the bottom quintile.

The results also suggest that the protective effect of green leafy vegetables is linked to a variety of nutrients, including vitamin K (phylloquinone), lutein, b-carotene, nitrate, folate and kaempferol. These include vitamins and bioactives that can help fight Alzheimer's disease, depression and other health conditions.

Learn Two or More Languages

Learning two or more languages may help fight cognitive decline. Studies show that people who speak more than one language tend to have better memory, problem-solving and critical-thinking skills, enhanced concentration, and better listening abilities.

Similarly, learning more than one language can also help you better understand your family’s culture and heritage. If you are from a family that has recently immigrated to the United States, learning the language of your new home can also be important for your sense of cultural identity.

As with all new things, languages require time, energy and focus to grow big and strong. This means that if you want to learn a new language, it’s best to focus on one at a time rather than adding another to your already overflowing plate.

Moreover, studies have found that older adults who speak more than one language tend to have a stronger ability to adjust their thinking to different situations. This can lead to a reduction in the effects of age-related disorders, such as depression and cognitive decline.

Talk to Your Doctor

There are a number of things you can do to help fight cognitive decline. But one of the most important is to talk to your doctor about your concerns.

Even if you are embarrassed, shy, or just don’t feel comfortable talking about it, it’s important to share your feelings and symptoms with your doctor. They aren’t there to judge or make you feel bad; they want to help you get better.

You can also bring a friend or family member to your appointment with you for support. That way, you can reassure yourself that someone else is listening and can ask questions or catch things you might have missed.

Having these critical conversations early can lead to early diagnosis and treatment of Alzheimer’s disease or other types of dementia. But a recent Alzheimer’s Association/Ad Council omnibus survey found that more than half of Americans aren’t talking to their loved ones about cognitive concerns as soon as they notice troubling signs.

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