Make better brain health your top New Year’s resolution for 2019

Alzheimer’s disease is expected to impact nearly 14 million Americans by 2050, according to the Alzheimer’s Association. So, as you set your New Year’s resolutions for 2019, consider the following ways to maintain and improve your cognitive function.
Research has shown lifestyle changes like improving diet and exercising regularly have helped drive down death rates from cancer, heart disease and other major diseases. These same lifestyle changes may also reduce or slow your risk of cognitive decline, which is often a precursor to Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia.

Discovering risk factors and preventive strategies for cognitive decline that can cause problems with memory, language, thinking and judgment is a hot topic in Alzheimer’s research, as are multi-faceted lifestyle interventions to slow or prevent dementia. The good news? Many such interventions are things you might already be doing or thinking about doing in the new year, such as eating well, staying physically active and getting good sleep, just to name a few.

“There is increasing evidence to suggest that what is good for the heart is good for our brains,” says Keith Fargo, Ph.D., director of scientific programs and outreach at the Alzheimer’s Association. “Keeping our brains healthy is not something we should worry about only as we get older. It should be a lifelong effort.”

One easy way to encourage brain health at any age is to stimulate your mind with problem-solving challenges. Working on a jigsaw puzzle, learning a new language and playing strategy games are a few ways to strengthen your memory – as long as they are new and challenging tasks. Research has also found correlations between higher levels of formal education and a better cognitive reserve – so sign up for a class in 2019!
Another way to promote brain health is taking care of your mental health. Managing stress and anxiety is not only important for overall health and wellbeing, but studies have found a link between depression and increased risk of cognitive decline. Take care of yourself and seek medical treatment if you have symptoms.

Being social may also support brain health. That’s right. Add “hang out with friends” and “have fun” to your New Year’s resolutions list. Better yet, take on several of these lifestyle changes for maximum impact. For example, enroll in a dance class with a friend.

Alzheimer’s researchers are now looking into whether a “cocktail” of these interventions can protect cognitive function. The Alzheimer’s Association’s U.S. Study to Protect Brain Health through Lifestyle Intervention to Reduce Risk (U.S. POINTER) is a two-year clinical trial that hopes to answer this question, and is the first such study to be conducted of a large group of Americans nationwide.

“There’s currently no certain way to prevent Alzheimer’s and other dementias,” said Amelia Schafer, executive director of the Colorado Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association, “but there is much to be gained by living a healthy lifestyle and adopting brain health habits that you enjoy.”

For those with questions about memory loss or personality changes that may be associated with Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia, the Colorado Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association has professionally staffed offices in Boulder County, Colorado Springs, Denver, Durango, Fort Collins, Grand Junction, Greeley and Pueblo. Call 303-813-1669 for information, or for 24/7 access to trained professional staff members, call the Association’s free Helpline at 800-272-3900.

Alzheimer’s by the numbers:
• Nearly 6 million people in the U.S. are living with Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia in 2019 – 47 million people around the world
• More than 71,000 Coloradans are living with dementia
• In the U.S., someone new develops dementia every 65 seconds – globally, it is once every 3 seconds

Alzheimer’s Association
The Alzheimer’s Association Colorado Chapter is the premier source of information and support for the more than 71,000 Coloradans with Alzheimer’s disease, their families and caregivers. Through its statewide network of offices, the Alzheimer’s Association offers education, counseling, support groups and a 24-hour Helpline at no charge to families. In addition, contributions help fund advancements in research to prevent, treat and eventually conquer this disease. The Alzheimer’s Association advocates for those living with Alzheimer’s and their families on related legislative issues, and with health and long-term care providers. For information call the Alzheimer’s Association 24/7 bilingual Helpline at 800-272-3900, or visit www.alz.org/co.