Alzheimer’s and dementia are debilitating, debilitating diseases. Nobody wants them. And yet around the world, more than 50 million people currently have Alzheimer’s disease.
So what can we do?
The experts say living a healthy lifestyle – with an emphasis on good nutrition, exercise and social interaction – is optimal.They suggest putting a series of lifestyle “hacks” into practice.
Choose a good diet
The Mediterranean diet is rich in vegetables, fruit, cereals, nuts and olive oil. The researchers say the diet should include at least five portions a day. One of the central ideas of the Mediterranean diet is that food should nourish the body, but also the mind.
Exercise helps keep brain connections healthy. Exercise increases blood flow to your brain. More blood flow means better oxygen delivery, which in turn means more new brain cells. It also increases the number and size of existing brain cells, so exercise helps your brain stay younger longer.
Engage in social activities
Social engagement protects against cognitive decline. Social isolation is, of course, a risk factor for many other health problems, too. But loneliness is a particular problem for the elderly. The reasons are unclear, but researchers suspect that loneliness damages the brain in the same way that other kinds of stress do.
Get enough sleep
Sleep helps the brain maintain plasticity, which is key to memory. It turns out that sleep is incredibly important to our health, and lack of sleep is a risk factor for many diseases. How much sleep is enough? The recommended amount of sleep varies by age group, but the magic number is seven to eight hours.
Engage in mental stimulation
Mental stimulation boosts brain plasticity. There’s a lot of evidence that people who keep mentally active—reading books, doing puzzles, playing games—have lower risks of Alzheimer’s. The converse is also true: mental decline tends to go hand in hand with inactivity.
Reduce nicotine use
Nicotine may impair cognition by causing inflammation.