August 22, 2011
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately 6 to 10 percent of Americans 65 years and older have dementia, and two-thirds of those with dementia have Alzheimer's Disease.
While most adults will experience a slower learning pace and need for new information to be repeated as they age, dementia and Alzheimer's Disease are marked by much more significant cognitive decline, affecting individuals' learning, memory, decision-making, and planning abilities.
Although dementia and Alzheimer's Disease are complex chronic conditions caused by many risk factors, including heredity, there are some lifestyle and environmental factors that you may be able to control.
- Regular exercise (at least 15 minutes on 3 or more days of the week) has been associated with increased brain activity and volume.
- A diet rich in vegetables (especially green leafy and cruciferous like broccoli) has been linked to a reduced rate of cognitive decline in humans. Other antioxidant-rich foods (especially berries) and omega-3 fatty acids (in particular, DHA, which is found in some fish) show promise in rat studies on neuron protection.
- Actively maintaining a strong social network and frequently completing mentally stimulating activities (puzzles, reading, etc.) are linked with lower Alzheimer's Disease risk.
George Rebok, PhD, professor in Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health's Department of Mental Health, offers further advice: "Everyday life gives us ample opportunities to exercise our cognitive abilities. Stay active and continually search out new ways to stimulate yourself mentally, socially and physically."
For more information on slowing cognitive decline and related research, visit http://www.nia.nih.gov/Alzheimers/Publications/ADPrevented/strategies.htm and http://www.cdc.gov/Features/HealthyBrain/.Every Monday, the Johns Hopkins Healthy Monday Project, part of the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future, offers tips for preventing disease and injury, and maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Check back each week for new tips or visit our archive.