Many people begin to notice changes in their cognitive functioning as they age. Some find that they can’t quite remember why they entered a room or that the location of their keys is a constant mystery. Varying degrees of cognitive decline are common, and it is estimated that 14 million people will be diagnosed with dementia by 2050.
Whether you are just working to keep your mind sharp or you are trying to ward off dementia, there are some things you can do to help your brain stay healthy. Try these tricks to keep your brain busy and fight dementia.
Maybe you haven’t tried learning a new language since high school, but did you know it can help fight dementia? Researchers have studied patients with dementia and found that speaking a second language gave patients an advantage, regardless of their level of education. In one study, the bilingual patients in the group developed dementia an average of four and a half years after those who spoke only one language.
Go for a run
Regular exercise is recommended to keep your body healthy throughout your life, and it could help keep your mind sharp as well. Exercise may keep your brain healthy by supporting vascular health and by helping release chemicals to protect the brain. Head to the gym, go for a run or play sports with friends to get your recommended exercise in. There’s no wrong way to be physically active. To get the most benefit, aim for 150 minutes of moderate activity a week or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise.
Make some friends
Partying with your friends isn’t just for college kids. The young at heart can and should have an active social life as well. Besides avoiding loneliness and giving you something to do on Friday nights, a social life can also be a tool in the fight against dementia. Having a large social network of friends, family, or both has been associated with a lower risk of dementia. In fact, people with no social ties are more than twice as likely to develop dementia as people with ties to at least five other people. Skipping out on social engagement earlier in life is also associated with a higher risk for dementia, so be sure to reach out and make some friends at every stage of life.
“Strong social ties can help keep your mind sharp, and you can build these relationships no matter your circumstances,” said Amy Santo, administrator at Smith Ranch Skilled Nursing and Rehabilitation Center. “People who live in care facilities often benefit from social interactions with their caregivers and by participating in group activities with other residents.”
Somebody is diagnosed with dementia about every minute in the United States. There are some things you can do to help your brain stay healthy as you age, and this work can help to delay or stave off dementia. There’s no harm in trying, and you may find you enjoy the work while you’re at it.
A version of this article was published by The OC Register. It has been republished here with permission.