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How to train your brain to prevent dementia

Athletes train to improve their performance. Train professionals to achieve success in their field. Now researchers are investigating ways we can train our brains to prevent dementia. This timely investigation is important because the incidence of Alzheimer’s disease increases as baby boomers age. There are 6.5 million Americans with Alzheimer’s disease today and that is expected to rise to a staggering 12.7 million by 2050 unless there is a breakthrough preventive treatment or cure for the disease, the Alzheimer’s Association says.

According to Axios, the new research examines whether eating well and exercising the body and brain can prevent Alzheimer’s disease, the most common form of dementia. The POINTER study is called POINTER and aims to determine whether computer-based brain exercises, similar to video games, combined with a healthy diet, exercise and social interaction can reduce the risk of dementia for people with hereditary and other factors that make them more likely to develop the develop disease.

The POINTER study plans to enroll 2,000 people ages 60 to 79 across the country who exercise less than three times a week, have mildly high blood pressure, cholesterol or blood sugar, or have a family history of memory problems. says the Boston Globe. One group receives general guidelines about eating and living well, and the other group receives more specific tips such as following the Mediterranean diet and training for body and mind. The aim of this study is to measure the effect of training your brain to reduce the risk of dementia.

In the meantime, there are some ways the Alzheimer’s Society of Canada and other experts in the field propose to challenge your brain and keep it healthy for longer.

  1. To play games. Crosswords, sudoku, chess, and checkers are great ways to use your mind. There is a site called BrainHQ that offers a wide selection of challenges to train your brain.
  2. Cross train. Step out of your comfort zone and do things you are not used to. For example, if you usually read books, try listening to podcasts more often, Axios says.
  3. Learn new skills. Start a new hobby or skill to keep the brain active.
  4. Break into a sweat. Do regular cardiovascular exercises that increase your heart rate and increase blood flow to the brain and body. Several studies have found a link between physical activity and a reduced risk of cognitive decline, says Dr. Gary Small, a noted brain aging expert and co-author of Two Weeks to a Younger Brain.
  5. Buddy up. Staying socially active can indeed support brain health. Do activities that make sense to you, Small notes. Find a way to be part of your local community. If you love animals, volunteer at the local shelter.
  6. Catch some zzz’s. Research has found “a significant association between sleep-disordered breathing and the accumulation of Alzheimer’s disease biomarkers,” according to the Alzheimer’s Association. Consult a healthcare provider if you are having trouble sleeping.

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