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Johns Hopkins Health - Dodging Dementia
Issue No. 32
Issue No. 32
Date: April 15, 2016
FOLLOW THESE FOUR SIMPLE DAILY HABITS A JOHNS HOPKINS MEMORY DISORDER EXPERT SAYS COULD PROTECT YOUR BRAIN HEALTH FOR DECADES TO COME
Plenty of us joke about forgetting where we put the keys, but the fear of developing dementia is very real. Based on population trends, it’s estimated that the number of Americans with Alzheimer’s disease, one form of dementia, will increase by more than 40 percent in the next decade. What Constantine Lyketsos, M.D., director of the Memory and Alzheimer’s Treatment Center at Johns Hopkins, wants you to know, however, is that there are ways to help keep your brain powerful.
1. FOLLOW A HEART-HEALTHY DIET A healthy brain needs a healthy heart. That’s because cognitive function is impacted when blood flow to the brain is interrupted, slowed or blocked. One of the best food plans is a Mediterranean diet, which includes lots of fruits and vegetables, lean protein, fish and good-for-you fats such as those found in nuts, olive oil and avocado.
2. MOVE MORE Studies show that moderate to intense physical exercise done regularly can reduce the risk of dementia by up to 50 percent. The key here is to choose something you’ll stick with, but to also change things up on occasion. If you go to the gym, for example, try a new class. Or simply head to different fitness trails. “Walking is a great exercise for brain health,” says Lyketsos.
3. FLEX YOUR MENTAL MUSCLE The trick to this habit is continually challenging yourself to stretch your mental powers. Take whatever you already do that activates your brain (puzzles, reading, games) and gradually increase the complexity and amount of time you spend doing it—while still keeping the activity enjoyable. Even better, learn something outside your comfort zone, like another language or how to play an instrument. The idea is to keep the parts of the brain you typically use active, but also to engage parts of your brain you’ve never used.
4. STAY SOCIALLY ENGAGED This comes down to staying connected with loved ones and the greater community on a regular basis. It gets harder as you age, says Lyketsos, if you live far from family or don’t drive as much as you used to, but it’s important to make the effort. “People really dread moving out of their homes and into retirement communities—but in fact, those communities have a built-in social connection,” which may benefit you if you’re isolated in your home, he says.
DID YOU KNOW?
EVIDENCE SHOWS THAT TAKING 10,000 STEPS A DAY SUPPORTS BRAIN HEALTH.
THE MIND PROJECT
Johns Hopkins researchers recently wrapped up the Maximizing Independence at Home (MIND) study that revealed key characteristics of what good home care looks like.
1. Care is tailored to each patient to ensure all needs are met as they arise.
2. It’s coordinated between doctors, families, mental health clinicians and community organizations—all of whom receive special training, meet regularly and carefully track progress.
Most patients in the project remained in their homes longer than a control group. Next step: determining how to roll out the model on a larger scale.
LEARN MORE Find out how easy it is to adapt the Mediterranean diet into your meals at our Healthy Heart site: hopkinsmedicine.org/healthyheart.