There is a common misconception that Alzheimer's Disease and Dementia are they same thing, but they're not. Dementia is an umbrella term for a group of symptoms which include impaired thinking and memory. Dementia is often related to age, or it can be caused by a range of diseases, drug or alcohol abuse, or even vitamin deficiencies, according to Alzheimers.net. Alzheimer's Disease, on the other hand, is a cause of dementia that is responsible for between 60-80% of all dementia cases. It is a specific form of dementia and its symptoms include impaired thought and memory, impaired speech, and confusion.
While some forms of dementia are temporary or reversible, Alzheimer's is sadly not. It is degenerative and incurable, which is why it is important that we support the researchers who are trying to change this. While there is currently no proven form of prevention for any kind of dementia, experts agree that your best chance of avoiding brain degeneration is to keep your brain healthy and sharp. Here are seven ways to look after your brain cells.
1) Avoid substances that harm your brain. Excessive alcohol intake and drug abuse damages your brain cells, even prescription or over-the-counter medication. Moderation is important, here. Likewise, smoking is a huge risk factor for both heart and brain disease, including stroke, which is a factor in dementia risk levels. (Note: if you must drink alcohol, make it a glass of red wine. Prevention explains that components in purple grape skins protect brain cells from the toxic effect of oxidative stress and beta amyloid.)
2) Challenge your brain. It's easy to let our brains get lazy. We use spell-check, we use a calculator, we google names of TV shows we can't remember... but it's better for your brain to be challenged. Fight Dementia explains that you need to actively work on the neural pathways that connect your memories in order to keep them strong. Next time you can't remember something, try to logically work your way through your thought processes until you find the information you were looking for. Likewise, try reading a book instead of just watching Netflix or listening to podcasts. You could make a habit of doing a puzzle every day. It's a nice way to relax, it strengthens your existing brain connections and promotes new ones.
3) Learn something new. Speaking of promoting new connections, try learning something new. WebMD explains that putting the effort into learning a new language or picking up an instrument at an older age does wonders for our brains.
4) Get plenty of sleep. Sleep deprivation is hard on our brain and our body. It's important to get plenty of sleep; everyone has different needs, but eight hours a night is a good rule of thumb. It's also important to try keeping your sleep times regular. This isn't always possible, but you should try creating a healthy sleep routine. Your body will have time to relax and regenerate cells, and your brain will thank you for it.
5) Stay social. WebMD explains that social connections help your brain to stay strong and healthy. Try incorporating brain workouts into a social interaction - play board games or cards with friends or family.
6) Eat a well balanced diet. A healthy diet keeps the heart healthy, and this in turn keeps the brain healthy by providing oxygen-rich blood. According to Medical News Today, heart disease risk scores have been closely linked to the likelihood of cognitive decline. Diets high in omega-3 fatty acids and vitamins C, B, D, and E have been found to improve mental ability, while a diet high in trans fats appears to encourage brain shrinkage. Prevention cites a study in which fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, and tuna, were linked to lower rates of Alzheimer’s over nine years of follow-up. These fish are all rich in omega-3 fatty acids.
7) Keep fit. Again, Medical News Today emphasizes that a healthy heart encourages a healthy brain. It's never too late to change your lifestyle, but the earlier the better. Physical fitness from a younger age can lower the risk of developing vascular dementia and Alzheimer's disease.
Today's world is a place of convenience and it's very easy to let our brains stop doing the hard work. By following the above tips you'll be helping to generate new brain cells, and encouraging healthy blood flow to your head. There are even some links between higher levels of education and a lower risk of dementia, and experts think that is due to the increased brain activity and strengthened neural connections. You don't need formal education or many resources to keep your brain strong by yourself, though. Join a library, do the puzzles in the paper, play scrabble with your friends, or add up your grocery bill in your head. Although there is no sure way to prevent Alzheimer's or Dementia, a healthy brain may delay symptoms and keep the mind healthier for longer.