Many of us tend to focus on wise choices that will hopefully help us to stay physically healthy for longer. But considering how common Alzheimer’s and dementia have become, paying attention to our mental health is a good idea as well. According to the World Health Organization, over 50 million people in the world currently suffer dementia, and that number is projected to grow to 82 million over the next decade.
The risk of dementia does increase with age, but contrary to common belief is not an inevitable part of aging. In fact, many people live well into their 90s without a sign of cognitive decline. There are no guarantees, but certain lifestyle habits can increase your odds of maintaining mental health as you grow older.
Diet and exercise matter. Diet and exercise are often cited as primary methods of reducing the risk of heart disease. But these smart choices also benefit brain health, according to numerous studies. Staying physically healthy helps you to maintain adequate blood flow to the brain, one primary predictor of long-term brain health.
Also, a healthy diet provides the trace vitamins and minerals that your body needs to stay healthy in numerous ways. Some studies have indicated a diet rich in fish, nuts, berries, and vegetables promotes brain health.
Take care of your emotional health, too. Mental and emotional health are intrinsically linked. Those who report feelings of satisfaction, happiness, and connection to their communities experience reduced risk of dementia. So maintain friendships, attend religious services, volunteer with a community organization, or join a social club or two. These things have become more challenging this year, but social distancing practices, hand washing, or attending events online can help us to stay connected yet safe.
If you experience feelings of depression or anxiety, take the proper steps to seek medical care and/or counseling so that the problem does not become chronic. Talk to your primary care provider about a referral for these services.