Alzheimer disease is a mind-robbing disorder that strikes with greater frequency as people age. An estimated 5.6 million Americans ages 65 and older have the disease—and younger adults are affected, too.
But there is good news: Some research suggests that by engaging in certain physical and mental activities, you may be able to lower your risk for cognitive decline.
When it comes to keeping your brain healthy, the rule to follow is “use it or lose it.” In adulthood, be sure to keep seeking new mental challenges and learning new skills. Doing so may benefit your brain and improve your thinking ability. And research suggests that participating in brain-stimulating activities may reduce your risk for Alzheimer-related cognitive impairment and dementia. These brain-saving activities included:
Using the computer
Participating in social activities
The key is to choose any mentally stimulating activity you enjoy. For instance, you might want to take a course in a subject that intrigues you, or learn how to play a musical instrument. Consider cultivating a new hobby, such as woodworking, photography, or painting. Or volunteer your time for a cause you feel good about. While these activities haven’t been proven to prevent Alzheimer disease, they’re a fun way to improve your brain health.
While you’re exercising your brain, don’t forget about physical exercise, too. In some studies, exercise has been linked with a lower risk for cognitive decline, fewer Alzheimer plaques and tangles in the brain, and better performance on tests.
While these studies suggest that exercise can help delay cognitive decline, there’s not enough evidence to confirm that exercise can actually prevent the disease. More research is needed. However, staying active as you age lowers your risk for many other diseases, including diabetes, heart disease, and certain types of cancer.