You know that one bad habit you know you need to give up, but you just haven’t found the motivation yet? Your brain health might depend on your willingness to quit. Your dementia risk increases if you maintain those poor health habits your doctor keeps mentioning — whether you want to believe it or not.
The good news is, reducing your risk isn’t hard. Here are a few things you can start doing right now to keep your brain in shape.
1. Drink raw juices
Investing in a juicer may seriously lower your risk of Alzheimer’s disease. A Vanderbilt University study found that participants could cut their risk of developing the neurodegenerative disease by up to 76% by drinking raw fruit and veggie juices more than three times a week. Researchers know that fruit and vegetable juices contain polyphenols, which link to antioxidants found in plants and can protect the brain from developing Alzheimer’s.
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2. Take a vitamin K supplement
People take a multitude of vitamins, but they often forget about vitamin K. This life-changing vitamin helps clot blood and helps prevent cancer and osteoporosis. A University of North Carolina study found those with “low levels of vitamin K have dysregulated calcium in their brains that causes some of the damage done to the brain in Alzheimer’s.” Another study discovered that patients diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease consumed considerably less vitamin K than the control group. Taking vitamin K regularly might really benefit you.
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3. Learn a new language
Could learning a second, or even a third or fourth language decrease your dementia risk? Some experts suggest people who are bilingual develop dementia later than those who aren’t. This could be because switching between multiple languages requires constant mental stimulation — important for delaying or preventing cognitive decline. If you’ve always wanted to learn a second language, now’s the time.
4. Learn to love fish
A little fat in your diet is good for your brain. Following the Mediterranean diet — high in fish, fish oil, and other foods containing healthy fats — could help delay the onset of dementia later in life. If you really aren’t into eating anything that comes from the ocean, avocados, eggs, and nuts provide similar benefits to your heart and brain health.
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5. Laugh more
There’s a reason you feel better after watching a comedy or repeating a joke to a friend. Laughter, according to Forbes, acts like a natural antidepressant. It’s also good for your brain as well as your heart. Because it keeps your brain active — your mind has to decode what others’ laughter means — laughing could help delay the cognitive decline associated with dementia and related diseases.
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6. Don’t drink too much alcohol
Your brain and alcohol aren’t friends. Some observational studies report even moderate alcohol consumption can contribute to cognitive decline in older adults. Again, it’s important to remember that reducing your alcohol consumption can benefit your health in more ways than one. Avoiding liver and brain damage, as well as heart problems, improves your chances of living longer — and healthier.
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7. Make crossword puzzles part of your daily routine
Physical activity is important, but so is mental exercise. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, staying mentally active is an important step in slowing and even preventing cognitive decline. Whether you complete crossword puzzles, memorize and recite state capitals, or attend classes, talks, and lectures on subjects that interest you, do your best to stay curious and keep your brain working hard.
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8. Get better sleep
Research published in the journal Neurology suggests getting less REM sleep can increase your dementia risk. Experts believe REM sleep has a direct involvement in your brain’s memory storage and ability to learn and store new information. If you aren’t making sleep a priority, you could already be causing major damage to key areas of your brain associated with the development of dementia.
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9. Exercise often
You may not love getting up in the morning to work out, but it’s worth your while. According to the journal Translational Psychiatry, physical activity influences brain health as you age. Regular exercise, even as little as 150 minutes of moderate activity per week, can decrease your dementia risk. Keep your brain sharp and your body looking (and feeling) amazing.
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10. Get your blood pressure under control
Whether you have to take medication, get active, or stop eating potato chips, do whatever you have to do to control your blood pressure. Women especially suffer extreme consequences as a result of high blood pressure — including increased dementia risk. Your brain depends on a fully functioning circulatory system to stay healthy. High blood pressure can damage that system, sometimes preventing your brain from getting enough nutrient-rich blood over time.
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11. Consume fewer added sugars
Of the many foods that increase your dementia risk, added sugars should be the first to make a grand exit from your diet. According to Harvard Health, chronically high blood sugar — a symptom of the over-consumption of harmful sugars — increases your risk of dementia. You can avoid the probable cause, insulin resistance, by removing as many added sugars from your meals and snacks as possible.
Next: Add more of this food to your diet instead.
12. Eat more fruit
A healthy diet is as good for your brain as it is for your body. Some observational research highly suggests citrus fruits might protect certain older adults against cognitive decline and dementia. Overall, adding more fruit to your diet can improve your digestion, combat overeating, protect your cells as you age, and even extend your life.
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Being more mindful of your surroundings can change your life for the better. According to Medical News Today, meditating regularly can decrease your risk for multiple forms of dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease. Meditation literally changes your brain, helping you manage your stress and maintain long-term mental health.
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14. Log 15 miles of running per week
The National Runners’ and Walkers’ Health Studies found that, among 153,000 participants, those who ran at least 15.3 miles per week saw a 40% drop in Alzheimer’s mortality. Running fewer miles didn’t help as much (they only saw a 6% drop), so you’ve really got to dedicate yourself to a runner’s lifestyle. However, if you seek motivation to train for a marathon, you’ve got it.
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15. Find a healthy way to relieve stress
The Alzheimer’s Society touches on several possible reasons why long-term stress hurts your brain. Stress produces a hormone called cortisol, which can lead to memory problems over time. Prolonged stress can also lead to other health conditions that put you at a greater risk of developing dementia, like depression. Find a healthy way to manage your stress that works for you, like biking, yoga, or reading.
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16. Quit smoking
Smoking is bad for you. You already know this, even if you haven’t quit yet. Here’s another reason to consider giving up the habit: dementia. Your risk for Alzheimer’s disease, the most well-known form of dementia, increases the more you smoke. Even if you cut back only a little bit, you could save your brain a lot of irreversible damage.
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17. Maintain your ideal (healthy) body weight
It’s no secret that long-term obesity increases the risk for multiple diseases over your lifetime. However, a study published in The Lancet that spanned multiple decades found that being underweight can also cause you harm. Compared to people maintaining a healthy weight, underweight individuals had a 34% higher risk of dementia. Being overweight doesn’t necessarily increase your dementia risk, but chronic conditions like heart disease — often associated with excess fat tissue — do.
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18. Add more green leafy veggies to your plate
Eating your veggies is essential for brain health. Vegetables have been associated with a lower risk of dementia in older adults. Like we said before, vitamin K specifically seems to keep our brains in good health. Science Daily explains you can find this vitamin in green leafy vegetables like spinach and kale, which are easy to add to sandwiches, salads, pasta bowls, and more.