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Think ahead for your head.

1. More and more research shows that lifestyle matters

1. More and more research shows that lifestyle matters
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A major report released by the Lancet International Commission on Dementia Prevention and Care in 2017 concluded that up to 35 percent of dementia cases can be delayed or even avoided altogether.

“The main message is that there are modifiable risk factors that can reduce your risk,” says Maria C. Carrillo, PhD, the chief science officer for the Alzheimer’s Association.

While you can’t change the genes you inherited, there are many probable risk factors that you do have some say over.

Living with or supporting someone with dementia is not easy. Laughter and love will get you through. Take a look at these tips on how people with dementia and their families can live better.

2. Keep learning throughout your life

2. Keep learning throughout your life
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Researchers say that when they look at brains during autopsies, they often see signs of damage (either plaque associated with Alzheimer’s disease or trouble with blood supply) even when the patient did not suffer from dementia.

Because of that, they theorize that these people have “cognitive reserve”—meaning their brains have enough extra capacity to stay sharp despite physical damage.

The Lancet Commission report emphasizes the association between lack of formal schooling and dementia, which suggests that what happens to us early in life can build this reserve: People with higher socioeconomic status during early childhood are less likely to develop dementia, and people who go to school at least through the secondary level are also better off.

“This points to the fact that brain health and, really, overall health is a lifelong commitment—it’s even something we should be thinking about with prenatal care,” Carrillo says.

But, she adds, that doesn’t mean you can’t continue protecting your cognitive health once you’ve grown up.

“There’s not anything you can do about your childhood education, but there is something you can do about making sure that you’re staying mentally active, that you challenge your brain, that you find ways to stay socially active.”

Take a look at these 8 simple ways you can get smarter while you sleep.

3. Treat hearing loss

3. Treat hearing loss
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Although there isn’t proof that hearing loss causes cognitive decline, studies show that those who suffer from it (and there are lots of us—it’s a problem in more than 30 percent of people over age 55) will have higher rates of dementia eventually, according to the Lancet Commission report.

“We know that it’s important for people who are experiencing hearing loss to get that checked out and corrected whenever possible because it can contribute to cognitive decline as you age,” Carrillo says.

Plus, as baby boomers hit retirement age, hearing aids are improving rapidly—they’re smaller and work better than your grandfather’s did, according to a recent Scientific American article.

Do visitors casually mention that your TV is blaring? Do you keep asking people to repeat themselves? You’re not alone.

4. Don’t skimp on sleep

4. Don’t skimp on sleep
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Sleeping less than five hours a night—or more than ten—seems to raise your risk of dementia and an early death, according to a 2018 report in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.

If you snore a lot or don’t feel rested after a full night’s sleep, you should get tested for sleep apnea, an airway condition in which you stop breathing briefly throughout the night.

Treatment can make a big difference in the quality of your sleep.

If you suffer from insomnia that lasts longer than a few days or weeks at a time, a sleep specialist might be able to help you figure out how to overcome it. If you just don’t get to bed early enough for a full night’s sleep before your early-morning workout, rethink your priorities for the sake of your brain health.

Few things are as coveted as good sleep: studies show that it adds years to your life and, over time, increases happiness as much as winning the lottery.

5. Keep your blood pressure in check

5. Keep your blood pressure in check
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It’s old news that cardiovascular health is really important for brain health, but preliminary results of a study announced in the summer of 2018 give extra weight to the importance of managing hypertension.

Subjects whose blood pressure was kept low—below the systolic (top) number of 120 mmHG—were 15 percent less likely to be diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment, which is defined as difficulty with problems solving and memory.

“It’s the most definitive study seen to date that maintaining blood pressure at less than 120 for systolic is a positive thing, not only for your heart but also for brain health,” Carrillo says.

The following tips will help to lower high blood pressure, or keep it from rising if it’s at a healthy level.

6. Maintain a healthy weight

6. Maintain a healthy weight
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A 2017 study published in the journal Alzheimer’s & Dementia analyzed medical records of more than one million adults and determined that those with a larger body mass index in middle age were more likely to develop dementia decades later. Maintaining a healthy weight—especially starting in midlife—will help protect the brain.

Stuck in a weight-loss plateau? These surprising factors may be preventing you from reaching your goal weight.

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7. Quit smoking

7. Quit smoking
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Obviously, smoking is incredibly unhealthy, but did you know that it also raises your risk of dementia?

Several studies over the past three decades have linked cigarette use and mental decline.

But there’s good news: When you quit smoking, your risk of dementia from all causes drops to the same level of people who never smoked.

“The association with cognitive impairment may be due to the link between smoking and cardiovascular pathology,” the Lancet Commission report states.

“But cigarette smoke also contains neurotoxins which heighten the risk.”

When you quit smoking and no longer inhale the 4,800 toxic substances found in cigarettes, you experience enormous positive changes in your health, fitness, and risks of heart disease and cancer.

8. Treat depression

8. Treat depression
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The relationship between depression and dementia is a tricky one – depression can be a symptom of dementia, as well.

But studies suggest that there’s a link between the number of episodes of depression a person suffers and his or her dementia risk, the Lancet Commission finds, so you should always seek treatment no matter how old you are.

Even if depression only appears after a person is showing signs of dementia, the mood disorder should still be treated, according to the Alzheimer’s Association; it will improve the patient’s quality of life.

Evidence is growing that essential oils can help fight a variety of ailments – including depression.

9. Keep moving

9. Keep moving
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Carrillo goes to the gym every day at 5 a.m.

“We don’t know what the heck is in store for us,” she says.

“The healthier your body and brain can be, the more you may be able to withstand or delay the symptoms of cognitive decline that could lead to mild cognitive impairment, and that could lead to a type of dementia, including Alzheimer’s.”

The Lancet Commission reports that high levels of exercise appear to be more protective than lower levels, but any amount is helpful.

Here’s how to overcome exercise excuses – because sometimes getting out of a comfy seat and into a saddle isn’t that easy.

10. Socialise

10. Socialise
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Carrillo’s early-morning gym friends call themselves the “breakfast club.”

Aside from motivating one another to exercise, they’re also boosting their brain health by simply being together.

Isolation, like depression, often becomes a problem as older adults begin feeling the effects of cognitive decline; however, loneliness also appears to be a precursor to dementia.

The Lancet Commission findings suggest that social isolation is a risk factor for high blood pressure, depression, and coronary heart disease as well, and all are bad for your brain.

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