Loss of memory from Alzheimer’s is a big fear for a lot of people â€“ but it’s not the only cause of memory loss. Some memory loss can be combated by methods used to protect ourselves from other diseases, such as hypertension and diabetes.
A recent issue of Harvard Men’s Health Watch offered nine steps to fight age-related memory loss:
Get mental stimulation. Brainy activities stimulate new connections between nerve cells and may even help the brain generate new cells. Draw, read, learn and explore new hobbies.
Exercise increases the number of blood vessels that bring blood to the brain and spurs development of new nerve cells. In one study, for every mile a woman walked each day, her risk of cognitive decline dropped by 13 percent.
Improve your diet. Reduced-calorie diets have been linked to a lower risk of mental decline. Also remember your Bs: folic acid and vitamins B6 and B12 can help lower homocysteine levels, and high homocysteine has been linked to an increase in dementia.
Improve your blood pressure. High blood pressure increases the risk of cognitive decline.
Improve your cholesterol. High levels of LDL (“bad”) cholesterol increase the risk of dementia, as do low levels of HDL (“good”) cholesterol.
Avoid smoking. One study said smoking doubles the risk of dementia.
Don’t abuse alcohol. Excessive drinking is a major risk factor for dementia. Limit yourself to two drinks per day if you choose to drink.
Protect your head. Moderate to severe head injuries early in life increase the risk of cognitive impairment.
Build social networks. One study linked frequent social interactions with a 42 percent reduction in dementia risk.