Jul 13, 2022 - Health

The anti-dementia lifestyle

Illustration of an unraveling yarn in the shape of a brain against a man in silhouette
Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

What if we could train our brains to keep dementia at bay? A new U.S. research study is trying to find a viable way.

Why it matters: The number of Alzheimer’s cases in the U.S. is rising as baby boomers age, but hopes of a miracle cure are far away. Now researchers are looking for evidence that lifestyle changes might reduce the risk for this debilitating disease and other types of dementia.

By the numbers: There are 6.5 million Americans living with Alzheimer’s today. That’s expected to rise to 12.7 million by 2050 unless there is some breakthrough preventative treatment or cure for the disease, per the Alzheimer's Association.

What's happening: In a "first-of-its-kind" trial, researchers are digging into whether eating right, exercising the body and exercising the brain can stave off Alzheimer’s, the most common form of dementia, the Boston Globe reports.

  • They're recruiting those between the ages of 60 to 79 and dividing them into two groups. One group will get general guidance on eating and living well, and the other will get specific food tips — like the "Mediterranean diet" — and workouts for the mind and body.
  • The goal is to track whether measures like training your brain can really reduce the risk of developing dementia.

The key part of the study is exercising the brain. Here are some ways you can train your brain, per the Alzheimer Society of Canada:

1) Play. There are endless games that use your mind, such as crossword puzzles, Sudoku, chess and checkers. The study detailed above is brain-training with BrainHQ, which has online games that work memory, speed, attention, people skills and navigation skills.

2) Cross-train. Do things you aren't comfortable with. If you love to listen to podcasts, read. If you struggle with hand-eye coordination, try throwing darts.

3) Learn. Take up a new hobby or learn a new language.

Plus, a slew of habits we've written about in Finish Line — including meditation, coffee- and tea-drinking, and getting enough sleep — have been linked to reduced risk of dementia.

The bottom line: We'll look out for the results of this new study, but we already know healthy habits make a difference.

  • No matter what age you are, making positive lifestyle changes — big or small — can pay huge dividends as you get older.
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