With November being National Alzheimer’s & Brain Awareness Month, we thought we would highlight ten activities you can do to potentially reduce your risk. There is no known cure for Alzheimer’s disease at this time. However, by doing our best to prevent the disease with the following brain healthy activities, you can help to prolong and improve your overall quality of life.
Exercise doesn’t just benefit your physical health, it helps boost brain function as well. By doing 30 minutes of cardio 3 times a week, your chances of memory loss associated with Alzheimer’s decreases significantly. Increased blood flow to the brain encourages new brain cell growth. Don’t feel pressured to take up anything too strenuous. Simply going for a walk, riding a bicycle or gardening is all it takes to increase your heart rate.
Use it or lose it! Challenge your brain on a daily basis with any variety of puzzles - crosswords, jigsaw puzzles, Sudoku or others. The more time spent challenging your brain in the early years of life, the better. Just like exercise, keeping the brain engaged can generate new brain cells! Create photo puzzles online with familiar images or even family photos. This will help stimulate memories associated with the pictures.
If you’ve ever heard of a Zen garden, then you might be able to guess why gardening is next on our list of activities. By creating a peaceful and stress free environment, you’re able to help alleviate most mental discomfort associated with Alzheimer’s disease. Traditional gardening can be quite strenuous, so be sure to hire someone to do most of the heavy lifting. Make the garden more of a retreat opposed to a job and it will be therapeutically beneficial.
4) Yoga & Meditation
Yoga and meditation are a great way to reduce stress and anxiety with anyone, especially those with Alzheimer’s disease. Research shows that by meditating 15 to 30 minutes a day, overtime it will improve connectivity in the part of your brain that never shuts down. It also slows the shrinkage of the hippocampus, which is the part of the brain that is responsible for memory & learning. Yoga can provide you with great social benefits too. Try going to a class with friends and family to stimulate more than just your body, but your mind too.
Improving brain function can easily start in the kitchen. Foods containing high levels of omega-3 fatty acids are especially beneficial to brain health. Salmon, herring and tuna are great examples of foods that are high in omega-3. If seafood doesn’t suit your taste, walnuts, flaxseed and soybean oil also contain high levels of omega-3. Try eating these foods 2-3 times a week.
The kitchen is also a great place for social interaction to take place. Include friends and family to help maintain relationships while developing a brain-healthy diet.
6) Work Backwards
Switching up your daily routine can be difficult for anyone. By doing your everyday activities in reverse, you are challenging your brain to learn something new everyday. Even the most basic tasks can become extremely challenging both physically and mentally. Here are some examples:
- Try writing or eating with your non-dominant hand for a change.
- Place your watch on your opposite wrist or style your hair with your left instead of your right hand.
Doing any number of these activities can activate a part of your brain that may otherwise go unstimulated.
7) Playing Cards
It is easiest to begin stimulating the brain using games that an individual is already familiar with. Trying to introduce a new game will merely cause confusion. For example, Go Fish and Memory are great for testing your cognitive abilities. Each game requires you to remember who has what cards or where specific cards are placed. To make the games a bit more personal, order custom cards with family photos on them to help trigger personal memories. You could even create your own game of memory with family portraits and pictures of familiar places.
8) Socialize with Others
Belonging to social groups will help individuals feel less alone, plus it helps stimulate the mind in the process. Participating in shared activities can also help individuals to feel less isolated. Consider joining a dance or art class to meet new people and to experience new things. In addition, taking part in social activities with friends and family can help maintain and build relationships.
9) Listening to Music
Not only is music therapeutic, it is also a great way to help trigger memories from the past. Play music from the individuals younger years to help spark memories from a specific time or event. Consider compiling a playlist of songs in the early stages of Alzheimer’s to use in the future. Music will also help to keep individuals engaged while performing specific tasks. Play the same songs for different activities throughout the day to maintain regularity and correlate specific tasks with each song.
10) Challenge Yourself in Everyday Life
Much like working in reverse, challenging yourself in everyday life is another great way to keep your brain sharp. Think about each one of the activities as described and try to accomplish one or more each day.
- Do the Sunday paper crossword or maybe try to pick up a new hobby like knitting or painting.
- Volunteer to take on a new project at work.
- Take the stairs over the escalator.
Memory care is about getting people back to their normal life. UnityPoint at Home can help those with Alzheimer’s disease, dementia or memory loss in several ways. Find information on these services at UnityPoint at Home’s Alzheimer’s & Memory Care page.