Cognitive fitness is recognised as a way to prevent dementia, similar to how physical fitness reaps health benefits. Maintaining good cognitive fitness involves the following lifestyle factors:
- Eat a nutritious diet, such as a combination of Meditarranean and DASH diet (called MIND – Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay) which can reduce Alzheimers by 53%. More whole grains, salad, vegetables, nuts, beans, poultry, fish and berries, and less fried food, cheese, red meats, butter and sweets
- Exercise daily, which helps with verbal fluency and memory, concentration and memory. Even 20 minutes regularly helps
- Get adequate, good quality sleep, which helps eliminate amyloid proteins from forming plagues in our brains (that leads to Alzheimers). But too much might not be good (more than 9 hours daily)
- Manage stress otherwise it can build up – cortisone, a hormone produced with acute or chronic stress, is linked to memory decline. Ensure any trauma or grief is adequate dealt with
- Connect with others, given adults who live alone are twice as likely to develop dementia
- Keeping active – a large study showed that doing puzzles, together with exercise, routine activities of daily living, plus some form of community (e.g. singing), helped prevent decline in cognitive abilities after a year
Our lifestyle choices are important as we all get older – keeping fit and active, eating well, getting good sleep, staying connected and dealing with stress are key.