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Critter Corner: How Can I Maintain and Improve My Cognitive Function in 2024? 

Dear Raider, 

One of the things that I want to do in 2024 is to take actions to stave off dementia and improve my cognitive functioning, as much as I possibly can.  What are some things I can do to make this New Year’s resolution possible? 

 Thanks for your help!  

Char Pynmaibrayn 

 

Dear Char, 

Alzheimer’s disease is expected to impact nearly 13 million Americans by 2050. Luckily, there are steps you can take to maintain and improve your cognitive function.  

Keeping our brains healthy is not something we should worry about only as we get older. It should be a lifelong effort! Looking for tips on how to protect your cognitive health? Here are several ideas derived from research supported by the Alzheimer’s Association: 

  • Adopt a healthier lifestyle: Research has shown that lifestyle changes such as improving diet and exercising regularly have helped reduce or slow risk of cognitive decline, which is often a precursor to Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia.  
  • Manage your blood pressure: There is increasing evidence to suggest that what is good for the heart is good for our brains. People with a top (systolic) blood pressure reading of 120 instead of 140 were 19 percent less likely to develop mild cognitive impairment, according to a study led by researchers at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center.  
  • Check your hearing: Hearing loss is present in 65 percent of adults over age 60, according to researchers. A study looked at older adults with hearing loss who were at higher risk for cognitive decline (about ¼ of the total study population). Researchers found that older adults with hearing loss, who were at higher risk of cognitive decline, cut their cognitive decline almost in half by using hearing aids for three years. 
  • Focus on Gut Health: Approximately 16 percent of the world’s population struggles with constipation. That prevalence is even higher among older adults. This year, researchers reported that less frequent bowel movements were associated with significantly worse cognitive function. Compared to those with bowel movements once daily, people with bowel movements every three days or more had worse memory and thinking equal to three additional years of cognitive aging. These results stress the importance of clinicians discussing gut health, especially constipation, with their older patients, including how to prevent constipation. 
  • Get vaccinated for the flu and pneumonia: Getting an annual flu vaccination was associated with a significant decrease in the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease over the following four years, according to researchers from the University of Texas’ McGovern Medical School, who found that even a single flu vaccination could reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s by 17 percent! Getting a vaccination against pneumonia between the ages of 65 and 75 reduced Alzheimer’s risk by up to 40 percent, according to a Duke University’s Social Science Research Institute study. 
  • Cut back on “ultra-processed” foods: People who consume the highest amount of ultra-processed foods have a 28 percent faster decline in global cognitive scores – including memory, verbal fluency, and executive function – compared to those with lower consumption, according to research involving half a million people living in the UK. Examples of ultra-processed foods include sodas, breakfast cereals, white bread, and many snack foods.  
  • “Hang out with friends” and “have fun”: Increased socialization, along with other lifestyle interventions is an effective way to protect cognitive function and prevent loneliness.  

Hope this is helpful and that you have a happy and healthy year to come! 

Raider 

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About Renee Eder

Renee Eder is the Director of Public Relations for the Farr Law Firm, and gives the voice to the Critters of Critter Corner. Renee’s poodle, Penny, is an official comfort dog who she and her children bring to visit with seniors who are in the early stages of dementia at a local senior home once a month.

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