According to the Women’s Brain Health Initiative, a Canadian charitable organization dedicated to combatting women’s brain health disorders, women are twice as likely as men to develop dementia. Despite the fact that almost 70% of Alzheimer’s sufferers are women, research has traditionally focused on men.
When considering protecting your brain health, there are non-modifiable risk factors such as family history, genetics, gender and age, however there are also significant modifiable risk factors.
Here’s what you can do now to reduce your long-term risk:
1. GET RESTFUL SLEEP
Numerous studies have shown that structural and physiological changes that occur in the brain during sleep positively affect your capacity for learning new things and impact the strength of memories you create during the day. Getting adequate sleep also boosts your problem solving capacity and creativity. Aim for 7-9 hours of sleep a night by establishing a regular sleep schedule, and remember that you can’t “catch up” on missed sleep during the weekend.
2. LIMIT YOUR ALCOHOL CONSUMPTION
Excessive long-term drinking can result in neurological damage and impaired mental processing. Women shouldn’t exceed 7-9 standard drinks per week or 1-2 drinks on any particular day. Simple tips to limit your consumption include alternating alcoholic drinks with non-alcoholic ones, using a small glass vs. a large one or opting for a diluted white wine spritzer vs. white wine, for example.
3. QUIT SMOKING
The brain cortex naturally thins with age but smoking can accelerate this process. As a result, smoking damages memory, learning and reasoning, as well as a million other harmful things! Do you have questions about quitting smoking?
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4. REDUCE YOUR LEVELS OF STRESS
Stress has become a huge issue for women in particular and can affect brain health and inhibit healthy aging. Stress and anxiety are also associated with memory disorders, so managing both is crucial. We can do this through exercise, meditation, yoga and other relaxation techniques, which can actually decrease the rate of cellular aging and therefore your risk of developing Alzheimer’s and dementia. Feeling overly stressed or anxious is a good reason to consult a virtual doctor for private, confidential and convenient mental health support anytime you need it.
5. MAINTAIN A HEALTHY DIET
More and more research shows that being overweight in midlife increases risk factors for cognitive decline. To maintain a healthy diet, avoid trans and saturated fats, get plenty of omega-3 fatty acids and enjoy a rainbow of fruits and vegetables. Studies show that women who eat more vegetables experience less risk of cognitive decline. Folic acid, vitamin B12, vitamin D, magnesium and fish oil are also believed to preserve and improve brain health.
Looking to improve your eating habits? Click here to download the Medisys healthy eating guide.
6. GET REGULAR EXERCISE
Cardiovascular exercise is vital to brain health. According to a Harvard Health report, the brain health benefits of physical exercise come directly from its ability to reduce insulin resistance, reduce inflammation, and stimulate the release of growth factors — chemicals in the brain that promote the growth of new blood vessels and the survival of new cells. Aim for 30 minutes, four times per week. Recent studies also show that those who work out are less likely to develop Alzheimer’s and dementia, and have a reduced risk of stroke. Additionally, exercise increases brain volume in older adults and decreases the likelihood of experiencing even mild cognitive decline.
7. KEEP YOUR BRAIN ACTIVE
Learn something new, practice memorization and enjoy strategy games, puzzles and riddles. The more frequent and complex your cognitive activity, the less likely you are to develop Alzheimer’s.
8. MAINTAIN AN ACTIVE SOCIAL LIFE
Friends and meaningful social engagements can decrease stress, reduce the rate of cognitive aging, increase resilience to injury and increase overall quality of life. Social connectedness is a major key to healthy aging.
While we all want to be wonderful and supportive partners, daughters, friends, colleagues, employees, bosses, sisters and mothers, we need to start to make our own health a priority. One way to ensure better continuity of care for ourselves is to make healthcare more convenient to access by removing barriers like travel and wait times — this is easy to achieve with 24/7 on-demand virtual healthcare.
Want to improve your brain health? Get advice on proactive lifestyle changes that can help prevent cognitive decline during a Medisys Preventive Health Assessment. Click below to learn more or to book an appointment in one of our clinics across Canada.