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Over 5.8 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s disease, a condition that causes symptoms of dementia and gradually reduces memory, thinking and behavior. The condition is most commonly found in the elderly, but rare cases can also be diagnosed in people as young as 30. And considering the improvement in life expectancy and an aging population due to advancements in cardiovascular and cerebrovascular disease, it is estimated that by 2050, the number of Americans living with Alzheimer’s Disease will increase to 14 million.
Though researchers haven’t been able to identify the condition’s exact cause or cure, recent evidence suggests that some hobbies or activities can act as exercises for the brain, slowing the onset and progression of symptoms.
Andro Zangaladze, M.D., Ph.D., Medical Director of Neurosciences for Inspira Health, offers several ways you can keep your brain young as you age.
Protect Your Head
At any age, trauma to the head and brain has been strongly linked to the development of Alzheimer’s later in life. This risk increases when trauma causes a loss of consciousness or occurs after age 55.
Head trauma can be prevented by wearing a seatbelt, wearing a helmet while riding a bike or playing sports or even taking extra precaution while walking around the house.
In addition to dozens of other health benefits, a regular exercise routine is proven to help with memory and overall brain health. Experts believe physical activity stimulates the production of a brain-boosting protein called brain-derived neurotrophic factor, or BDNF, which keeps nerve cells in the brain healthy and strong.
Stay Socially Active
Staying active is about more than just your exercise habits. Maintaining an active social life fosters creative thinking, thanks to continual use of language and critical thinking, both of which create brain activity and can have lasting impacts on your mental sharpness.
Maintain Overall Health
Following your doctor’s orders can have more impact than you think. Chronic conditions like heart disease, diabetes and depression can increase your risk for developing Alzheimer’s. Maintaining a proactive treatment plan for these conditions is important for your overall brain health.
Your brain is similar to your muscles--frequent use keeps it strong and healthy. Try learning a new skill, completing puzzles or trying your hand at an art project. All of these pursuits will activate different nerve endings in your brain and keep them from going dormant.