Although dementia is a progressive disease that slowly deteriorates the brain, there are ways to make your brain more resilient to the early signs of dementia. Just as our bodies age and we can help to keep it healthy by maintaining strong muscles and joints, the same is true of our brains. Here are five ways to make your brain more resilient to the early signs of dementia.
1. Learn a new language. According to the Alzheimer’s Society1, bilingual brains are more resistant to dementia. Their scientists say “People who speak more than one language develop dementia symptoms an average of five years later and can cope with a greater level of brain dysfunction,” than those who speak only one language. The theory is that learning multiple languages requires the brain to grow new brain cells, making it more flexible.
2. Remain socially active. Social interaction keeps brain cells alive and can help the brain to grow new ones. Our brains continue to grow new cells even as we age, as long as we remain active. Interacting with others, learning new things from them and exchanging information keep the brain active. Remaining social also helps to reduce anxiety and depression which can affect the brain negatively.
3. Challenge your brain: Learn new skills. Challenge your brain to learn a new language, a new type of math or a new hobby like knitting. When you challenge your brain to learn new things, it must grow new brain cells to accumulate the knowledge. Learning new skills also changes the way connections are made in the brain, keeping it active. Even tiny challenges can help, for example:
- Take a completely different route when you run errands and learn new directions.
- Listen to music you have never listened to before.
- Brush your teeth or get dressed using a hand you usually don’t use.
4. Exercise and eat well. Practicing healthy habits will contribute to a healthy brain that can be more resilient to the early signs of dementia. Eating healthy foods, exercising and getting enough sleep will support the growth of new brain cells as you age. This includes staying connected to friends and families and remaining involved in activities you love.
5. Remain curious. Along with learning new skills, the ability to remain curious will keep your brain active and challenge it to constantly take in new information. Look for new and interesting things to do in your community. Some examples of activities that may peak your interest and keep you curious are:
- Learn to paint or play music.
- Take a writing class or begin to keep a journal.
- Take a class to learn flower arranging.
- Find a volunteering opportunity that interests you.
- Explore a city or town near you.
- Joint a book club.
- Start a dinner or movie club that is hosted in members’ homes.
- Start collecting items of interest to you, study the details and become an expert.
All of these things can help to ensure that you live an active, happy, interesting life. Luckily, there are many ways to learn how to promote your brain health. Practicing these strategies into the senior years will give you the best chance of keeping a strong, healthy brain that will serve you well longer. Lastly, don’t be afraid to brush up on your caregiver studies, there is nothing wrong with research into dementia care tips online.