Can certain behaviors or habits have an impact on your risk of developing dementia? Recent information from medical studies suggests that this may be possible.

A series of recent medical studies have a common finding: our own behavior could influence the brain, and maybe even delay symptoms of dementia, including dementia-related to Alzheimer’s, which accounts for up to 75% of cases, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This information can provide hope and empowerment to those at risk or in fear of developing dementia.  Studies have found that exercise, both physical and mental, may reduce risk of dementia.

Among recent research on exercise and dementia, one study found that providing care to grandchildren may reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s, as it involves socially, physically and mentally challenging behaviors.

Another study published in the August 2017 volume of the Neurology Journal, found that participants in a study who spent less time in REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep were associated with an increase in incidents of dementia.  Good quality sleep is known to be important for overall health, and now it is suggested it may have an important effect on the brain.

In July 2017, neuropsychologist Dr. John DenBoer of Smart Brain Aging gave a presentation at Bivens & Associates, PLLC related to how certain exercises for the brain may keep the brain strong and stave off brain shrinkage and aging resulting in dementia.  Dr. DenBoer’s research shows that new and novel learning activities, such as learning any new activity or skill every few weeks, can help keep the brain healthy. The best news is that you do not have to be good at the new skill or activity, just the act of engaging in different new and novel learning every several weeks (e.g., languages, cooking skills, games, hobbies, studying new subjects, etc.) helps. It also sounds like a lot of fun!

In addition, studies now show that in addition to physical and mental exercise, incidences of dementia are reduced in persons with controlled blood pressure. This makes sense given that some forms of dementia are stroke related. So, whether it is physical exercise, mental exercises such as learning a new skill, or just getting a good night’s sleep, any of the above may help keep your brain healthy.

–Megan Selvey, Esq.