Think about your weekly workout routine. You probably try to hit all major muscle groups, right? But are you forgetting one of the most important muscles…your brain? Your brain is a muscle too and it needs exercise to stay healthy just like all your other muscles!
June is Alzheimer’s and Brain Health Awareness Month; sponsored by The Alzheimer’s Association; and is a way to raise awareness for the 47 million people living with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia worldwide. Alzheimer’s is a scary disease, and I know many people who have dealt with it within their families. It is the 6th leading cause of death in the United States, with an estimated 5 million Americans living with the disease.
Alzheimer’s is the most common form of dementia, which is a general term for memory loss and loss of intellectual ability. It’s progressive, meaning the symptoms worsen over time. The greatest known risk factor of Alzheimer’s is increasing age, however the disease is not a ‘normal’ part of aging. Although there is currently no cure, research is ongoing and treatments are available that can help slow the symptoms and improve quality of life. Alzheimer’s and Brain Awareness Month hopes to raise both awareness and money in order to fund research that will hopefully find better ways to treat the disease, delay it’s onset, and prevent it from developing.
One of the best ways to reduce your risk of cognitive decline is by keeping your brain healthy. This means doing daily tasks to exercise your brain and help it get stronger. Here are some of my favorite ways to put your brain to work:
- Study! Formal education at any age can reduce your risk of cognitive decline. Taking a class at your local community college, or taking an online class are great ways to do this. These days, there are ways to take any class you want online-so studying can be fun and be on a topic you’re interested in! For example, my dad recently took a class on Roman Architecture from Coursera, which is a website that offers FREE courses on hundreds of topics from tons of universities around the world!
- Let your creativity flow! Doing something artistic has been shown to decrease cognitive decline. This can be anything from coloring in a coloring book (adult coloring books-so hot right now), painting, knitting, sewing, drawing, making origami, building furniture-literally anything that interests you!
- Challenge your mind. Activate your brain by doing activities that make you think, such as puzzles, crosswords, word searches, Sudoku, card games, and board games. My grandfather loves doing crosswords! He gets a new crossword book every Christmas.
- Be social! Staying socially engaged is important for brain health. Pursue social activities like volunteering, joining a book club, singing in a choir, golfing with your friends, or even hosting movie night!
- Use your phone: The amount of apps available now made specifically for training are brain are countless. Some of my favorites are Duolingo for learning a new language, and Luminosity, Peak, Elevate, and Cognito, which are all apps that have various “brain games” and brain training activities!
Of course, taking care of yourself will also help keep your brain healthy. Exercising regularly, eating a healthy diet, quitting smoking, and getting enough sleep are all important and will help decrease cognitive decline. Keeping your head safe and avoiding head injury should be a big priority as well: wearing a helmet, wearing a seatbelt in the car, and doing everything you can to prevent falls and concussions can all keep your brain healthy.
It’s never too early to start exercising your brain, so start today! Hopefully, Alzheimer’s will soon be a disease with a cure. In the meantime, if you are interested in volunteering for the Alzheimer’s Association, wish to make a donation, or want more information on Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia, visit www.alz.org