As you get older, you might take steps to develop healthy habits, whether exercising, eating healthier or limiting your consumption of alcohol. But did you know that there are steps you can take to help with your brain health? Such preventive measures might even reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s – and the good news is, you might be doing these things anyway, like working on puzzles or trying to get a good night’s sleep.
Alzheimer’s is the most common form of dementia. In fact, someone in the United States develops the disease every 65 seconds, according to the Alzheimer’s Association. More than 6 million Americans currently live with Alzheimer’s – a number now projected to reach 7.2 million by 2025.
Along with learning more about the disease, these five simple steps could possibly improve brain health, reduce the risk of disease and help delay the potential onset of Alzheimer’s or dementia.
1) Use it or lose it. Whether it’s crossword puzzles, reading or painting, keeping your brain mentally stimulated may help keep it young.
2) Get enough sleep. Sleep deprivation can lead to problems with memory and cognitive abilities. Sleep is essential for brain maintenance, like removing built-up toxins in your brain.
3) Stay social. Isolation or loneliness in older adults is associated with a 50% increased risk of developing dementia and a 26% increased risk of all-cause mortality, according to the American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry. Engaging in activity clubs can help you increase your social interaction and help you stay active.
4) Make healthier lifestyle choices. Studies show moderate exercise can help improve brain function, especially in the areas responsible for learning and memory. Improving these parts of the brain may fight pre-Alzheimer’s changes often seen in midlife. Talk to your health plan about fitness programs that may be available at no additional cost. Other lifestyle choices, like eating a healthy diet, may also help reduce cardiovascular risk while helping to slow brain aging.
5) Manage chronic illnesses. Common diseases in older adults, such as diabetes and heart disease, may affect brain function. Talk with your health care provider about treatment plans to help you manage chronic conditions.
In addition to these five steps, it is important to have a memory screening completed each year. Having a record of your brain function year to year may help your health care practitioner diagnose memory disorders earlier.
Memory screenings can be performed during your annual wellness visit, which is free to anyone on Medicare. Make sure to ask your physician to perform a memory evaluation the next time you visit the doctor’s office.
UnitedHealthcare Medicare Advantage members can also take advantage of the HouseCalls program, which offers an annual health and wellness visit in the convenience and privacy of your home, at no additional cost. A HouseCalls licensed practitioner can conduct a memory screening and refer you to additional care, if needed.
If you feel like you or a loved one might be suffering from symptoms of dementia, contact your health care provider.