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3 New Year’s Resolutions to Lower Your Risk of Dementia

January 1, 2023

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We have eaten the holiday cookies, exchanged gifts and spent quality time with loved ones. Now it is time to take down the tree, put the decorations away until the next holiday season and set a few New Year’s resolutions to start the year off right.

While there are endless resolutions you could set for yourself, some of the more common ones can also help lower your risk of developing dementia.

Risk factors of dementia, such as increasing age, family history and genetics, are out of your control. However, certain lifestyle changes you set in your New Year’s resolutions can help reduce your risk.

Our team at Franciscan Ministries, with senior living communities in Illinois, Ohio, and Indiana, is sharing three of these resolutions that you may want to add to your list.

Resolution #1: Engage Your Mind

You have made New Year’s resolutions to be more active in the past, but this likely was in reference to your physical health. However, keeping your mind active is equally important when it comes to reducing your risk of developing dementia.

According to the Alzheimer’s Society, “engaging in mental or social activities may help to build up your brain’s ability to cope with disease, relieve stress and improve your mood. This means doing these activities may help to delay, or even prevent, dementia from developing.”

Some of the types of activities that keep your mind engaged and active include:

  • Learning something new
  • Arts and crafts
  • Brainteasers – jigsaw puzzles, crosswords, sudoku, etc.
  • Card games, chess, or board games
  • Journaling
  • Reading
  • Socializing with friends and family

Resolution #2: Stay Physically Active

You may already have this one on your list, and that would not be surprising since health and wellness New Year’s resolutions are some of the most common that people set for themselves. In fact, according to Statista’s global survey last year, almost half of the survey participants said they wanted to exercise more.

Whatever your initial reason is for staying physically active, whether it is to lose weight or feel better, getting more exercise can also help reduce your risk of developing dementia.

The NHS states,

“a lack of regular physical activity can increase your risk of heart disease, becoming overweight or obese, and type 2 diabetes, which are all linked to a higher risk of dementia. Older adults who do not exercise are also more likely to have problems with memory or thinking (known as cognitive ability).”

The problem that many of us have with this resolution is that we stick with it for a couple of weeks but then abandon it before February comes around. To help you stay physically active long-term, find an exercise you enjoy. Try doing a variety of activities that include both aerobic and resistance training exercises.

It’s important to note that you should not make significant changes to your exercise routine without consulting your doctor.

Resolution #3: Eat a Healthy Diet

Not surprisingly, eating healthier was also one of the top New Year’s resolutions choices on Statista’s global survey. Even though this is a common resolution, maintaining a healthy diet can help to reduce your risk of developing dementia.

According to the Alzheimer’s Society, “eating a healthy, balanced diet may reduce your risk of dementia, as well as other conditions including cancer, type 2 diabetes, obesity, stroke and heart disease.”

However, a healthy diet is all about being consistent and maintaining balance. Not one single food group or ingredient has the power to prevent dementia on its own. Some brain-healthy dietary guidelines provided by the Alzheimer’s Society include:

  • Eating more fruits and vegetables
  • Choosing lower-fat dairy foods
  • Including whole-grain foods in most meals
  • Limiting the amount of salt in your diet
  • Eating less red meat
  • Using vegetable and plant oils
  • Consuming oily fish

Again, it’s important to talk to your doctor or a dietician before making any significant changes to your diet.

You may have had one or all three of these New Year’s resolutions on your list for this year, but now you have even more reason to stick with them. As the uncontrollable risk factors for dementia become more prominent, it is increasingly important to make lifestyle changes that you can control to promote brain health and delay cognitive decline.

If you would like to learn more about the care services our senior living communities in Illinois, Ohio, and Indiana provide, we invite you to visit our website to find a Franciscan Community near you.