CNBC – Certain lifestyle factors have a greater impact than your genes do on whether you’ll develop memory-related diseases.
As a neuroscience researcher, here are seven hard rules I live by to keep my brain sharp and fight off dementia.
1. Keep blood pressure and cholesterol levels in check
High blood pressure can weaken your heart muscle, and is one of the leading causes of strokes. Ideally, your blood pressure should be no higher than 120/80.
Cholesterol is critical to your brain and nervous system health, too. The American Heart Association recommends getting your cholesterol levels measured every four to six years.
2. Manage sugar levels
It’s easy for grams of sugar to add up, even if you think you’re being careful — and usually, sugar will sneak in through packaged foods.
Where is the sugar hidden? Look for these in the ingredients list: Dextrose, Fructose, Galactose, Glucose, Lactose, Maltose, Sucrose, Syrup.
3. Get quality sleep
Studies show that people with untreated sleep apnea raise their risk of memory loss by an average of 10 years before the general population.
For most people, a healthy brain needs somewhere between seven and nine hours of sleep a night.
4. Eat a nutritious diet
One way I keep things simple is to have most, if not all, of these items in my grocery cart:
Fatty fish like salmon
Cruciferous veggies like arugula, broccoli, Brussels sprouts and collard greens
5. Don’t smoke (and avoid secondhand and thirdhand smoke)
Smokers have a 30% higher risk of developing dementia than non-smokers. They also put those around them at risk: Secondhand smoke contains 7,000 chemicals — and at least 70 of them can cause cancer.
6. Make social connections
In a recent study, people over the age of 55 who regularly participated in dinner parties or other social events had a lower risk of losing their memory. But it wasn’t because of what they ate, it was the effect of the repeated social connection.
To lessen isolation and loneliness, you can also boost brain chemicals like serotonin and endorphins by performing small acts of kindness.
7. Continuously learn new skills
Maintaining a strong memory is not all about brain games like Sudoku, Wordle and crossword puzzles …