Reduce Your Dementia Risk?
One of the most frequently asked questions I hear about dementia is, “How can I protect myself against it?” Everyone wants to know if there’s something they can do to minimize their chances of developing any of the multiple forms the condition can take. The simple answer is “yes, there are things you can do to minimize your risks.” But the more involved response is actually another question: Just how much action are you willing to take to protect yourself?
There are a number of things we can do to support brain health. Studies have suggested that eliminating the use of tobacco products may help decrease the risk of dementia; reducing the consumption of alcohol may help as well. But there are other simple, common-sense-medicine things we can do for our overall health—an added benefit of which might be to lower our odds of developing dementia.
Socially: My grandparents were socially isolated, living far outside city limits with no visible neighbors, and while Grandpa was physically active, Grandma was very sedentary. Neither of them interacted on a regular basis with anyone besides each other for weeks at a time. Eventually, they were both diagnosed with dementia, but it hit Grandma decidedly harder than it did Grandpa.
Physically: Activities like a brisk walk or a dip in the pool are excellent for both body and brain, and these activities are even better when enjoyed with friends.
Mentally: Stimulating the mind also provides a health boost. Engage in puzzles like Sudoku or activities where you’re learning a new skill; you want something that makes your mind work!
Get your Zzzzzz’s
Although the exact connection between sleep and memory isn’t completely understood, anyone who’s ever experienced sleep deprivation will confirm how difficult it is to concentrate or even think straight when all you want to do is fall over and sack out. According to an article published by Harvard Medical School, studies show that the amount of sleep we get as well as how good that sleep is can have a profound impact on our ability to learn and remember information.
Adequate amounts of sleep can also help us with our “social and emotional intelligence”; a well-rested individual can more easily recognize other people’s emotions and expressions, and this is a key component of maintaining healthy relationships—which, as we noted earlier, can be one of the tools used to reduce dementia risk.
A poor diet is to your body what unleaded gasoline is to a diesel engine: destructive!
What to Avoid: The dyes, preservatives and other man-made ingredients along with the unhealthy fats, high sodium and added sugars found in many of our foods; they can mean compromised health over time.
Instead, Scarf Down This: The Mayo Clinic recommends that a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains and omega-3 fatty acids (which are found in certain fish and nuts) “might promote health and lower your risk of developing dementia.”
And With a Little Indulgence: Bear in mind, your diet doesn’t have to be all serious! Turns out, studies show dark chocolate may have a part to play in reducing the dementia risk.
But how can we make all this happen simultaneously? It appears balance is the key. A life balanced between activity, rest, healthy eating and companionship will be more pleasant and may actually accomplish more at the end of the day. In retrospect, the Scriptures teach that God actually designed us this way from the beginning.
He had this to say about work and rest: “For six days work is to be done, but the seventh day is a day of Sabbath rest.” Exodus 31:15 (NIV)
On the subject of food, God specifically laid out which foods were healthy for His people to eat in Leviticus 11 and Deuteronomy 14; later on, it was remarked by one of the Psalmists that “there was not one feeble person among their tribes,” (Psalm 105:37). Following God’s dietary laws proved to be extremely beneficial.
And as for companionship, check out Hebrews 10:24-25 (NIV) “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and gooddeeds, not giving up meeting together….”
And, perhaps the linchpin, Proverbs 27:17:“As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.”
So stay sharp! There’s no time like the present; message your friend and get a plan together—it’s a way everybody can win.