When it comes to protecting your brain, the first thing that may come to your mind is avoiding head injury, and for good reason: studies have shown that traumatic brain injury (TBI) resulting from falls and other forms of head injury may increase the chances of getting Alzheimer’s disease.
One of the causes of traumatic brain injury is known as sports-related head injury. The American Association of Neurological Surgeons estimates that at least 21 percent of all head injuries are from sports and recreational activities among children and teenagers in the U.S.
However, it’s not just sports injuries that can damage your brain. Our lifestyle also plays an important role in keeping our brain healthy: what we put in our bodies and how we use it will ultimately decide how our bodies will function in the long run.
That said, here are some tips from the Group Health Research Institute to help you in the quest to protect your brain – and possibly avoid dementia in your old age.
1. Take care of your heart. Studies have confirmed that vascular risk factors such as hypertension, diabetes or smoking can adversely affect brain development and increase the likelihood of Alzheimer’s disease. Do your part in taking control of the situation – start eating healthy, stop smoking and get regular exercise. It’s proven through research: people who regularly exercise have a lower chance of getting dementia.
2. Avoid alcohol as much as possible. While the jury’s still out on whether alcohol consumption increases the risk of Alzheimer’s, experts note that heavy drinking may lead to cognitive impairment. If you must drink, limit your daily intake to a single drink for women, and two drinks for men.
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3. Don’t over-medicate. Loading up on medication is not only dangerous, but it can actually increase the risk of developing dementia. What’s worse it, once you take in antipsychotic drugs to treat dementia, you risk having a higher chance of dying than not taking them at all. (Related: Pharmaceutical industry panics; experts admit prescription drugs don’t work for dementia and they probably never will.)
4. Stay away from high-sugar diets. Studies have shown that diabetes may increase the likelihood of having Alzheimer’s. However, just having high blood sugar is already a risk even without diabetes. Avoiding food and drinks that have high sugar is already killing two birds with one stone.
5. Don’t stress out so much. A famous saying goes, “Wisdom comes with age.” Use that wisdom to avoid stressful situations, as cortisol, the hormone linked to stress, has a stronger effect on older adult brains. According to experts, people who experience stress are three times more likely to develop Alzheimer’s.
6. Get a good night’s sleep. Research has already pointed out that inadequate sleep can lead to diminished cognitive capacity, which can increase the risk of dementia. The hours of sleep needed can vary from person to person; however, most agree that it should be between seven to nine hours. To get a good night’s sleep, make sure that your room is conducive to sleep, such as a quiet, dark and comfortable area.
7. Avoid all types of head injury. This one’s non-negotiable: when doing an activity that may likely impact your head, make sure you are wearing a strong helmet. Aside from sports-related injuries, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) has also identified some jobs to have a higher chance of sustaining TBI. If you are driving, make sure you are prepared and are able to drive safely to prevent accidents that may injure you. If you are prone to falls, use proper equipment to avoid any incidents: get your eyes checked, make sure your footwear has a good grip to prevent slips, and make sure your house is properly lit and clear of any trip or fall hazards.