If you don’t use it, you’ll lose it. This isn’t just an old wives’ tale; it is sound advice for all of us to remember as we age. Both your physical and cognitive functioning abilities can slide. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that an estimated 16 million Americans are living with some form of cognitive impairment.
The number of people ages 65 and older living with Alzheimer’s is expected to swell from the current 5.8 million to 13.8 million by 2050. Fortunately, a growing body of new research holds promise to improve and protect brain health and possibly stave off dementia and cognitive decline.
Implementing the strategies found in these studies can help you learn how to boost your brain health and aid in the fight of curbing dementia. Here are recommendations to improve brain health:
1. Sleep Tight
Although experts have yet to concretely connect the dots explaining why sleep problems are associated with early indications of Alzheimer’s, numerous studies conducted over the past few decades link sleep disturbances to poor brain health.
One such study from Boston University Medical Center linked obstructive sleep apnea, the sleep condition that causes brief periods of partial or complete stoppage of breathing, with higher rates of cognitive impairment. A key to preventing brain decline is asking your sleep partner if he or she has noticed you snoring or stopping breathing while sleeping. Discuss any daytime sleepiness with your physician and ask if you should be screened for sleep apnea. Here are some further ideas:
- Establish a pattern for sleeping. Go to bed and wake up in the morning around the same times.
- Keep your bedroom cool and dark. Use an automatic thermostat to lower the temperature overnight and/or use lighter weight blankets. Replace your bedroom’s curtains with black out blinds on the windows.
- Avoid heavy eating and/or drinking prior to bedtime. If you are hungry, reach for a small snack instead.
2. Step Up
Walking is great for your waistline, but a study from New Mexico Highlands University (NMHU) found it can give your brain health a big boost, too. Your foot’s impact hitting the ground produces pressure waves in your body that significantly increase blood flow to your brain, which help to prevent dementia. Along with an overall sense of well-being, those surges of blood help maintain health and cognitive function.