Brain power

Cognitive decline is a condition that is often associated with aging, but even middle-aged people can experience memory loss or cognition issues. 

The Alzheimer’s Association indicates more than 5 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias. By 2050, that number could rise to as high as 16 million people. Although there is no definitive way to prevent dementia, living a long, vibrant life may be possible by encouraging some healthy habits for the brain. It is never too late or too early to begin health and lifestyle changes.

Exercise

Becoming more active can improve brain volume, reduce risk for dementia and improve thinking and memory skills. Increased blood flow that occurs with physical activity may help generate new neurons in the hippocampus, an area of the brain involved with learning and memory.

Quit smoking

The Alzheimer’s Association indicates evidence shows smoking increases the risk of cognitive decline. Smoking can impair blood flow to the brain and cause small strokes that may damage blood vessels.

Eat healthy foods

Foods that are good for the heart and blood vessels also are good for the brain. These include fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, fish-based proteins, unsaturated fats and foods containing omega-3 fatty acids. Neurologists state that while research on diet and cognitive function is limited, diets such as Mediterranean and Mediterranean-DASH (dietary approaches to stop hypertension) may contribute to a lower risk of cognitive issues.

Consume caffeine

Caffeine may help boost memory performance and brain health while improving attention span, cognitive function and feelings of well-being. Information from “Psychology Today” also indicates caffeine may help in the storage of dopamine, which can reduce feelings of depression and anxiety. In addition, compounds in cocoa and coffee beans may improve vascular health and help repair cellular damage due to high antioxidant levels.

Work the brain

Engaging in mentally stimulating activities can create new brain connections and more backup circuits, according to Dr. Joel Salinas, a neurologist at Harvard-affiliated Massachusetts General Hospital. 

Cognitive decline can come with aging, but through healthy habits, people can reduce their risk of memory loss and dementia.

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