VOICES: Adopt healthy behaviors to reduce risk of cognitive decline

Dr. Jon Durrani is a Neurologist with the Dayton Center for Neurological Disorders and supporter of the Alzheimer’s Association Miami Valley Chapter. (CONTRIBUTED)

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Dr. Jon Durrani is a Neurologist with the Dayton Center for Neurological Disorders and supporter of the Alzheimer’s Association Miami Valley Chapter. (CONTRIBUTED)

During Alzheimer’s and Brain Awareness Month in June, we should all evaluate our lifestyle choices, and adopt healthy behaviors that can help reduce the risk of cognitive decline.

This is especially important considering there are currently an estimated 6.5 million Americans age 65 and older living with Alzheimer’s disease, and the Alzheimer’s Association projects this number will grow to nearly 13 million by 2050.

A special report accompanying the “2022 Alzheimer’s Disease Facts and Figures” from the Alzheimer’s Association reports on two studies undertaken to look at consumers’ and primary care physicians’ perspectives on awareness, diagnosis and treatment of mild cognitive impairment (MCI).

Identifying which individuals with MCI are more likely to develop dementia is a major focus of research, as is the facilitation of earlier disease intervention and treatment. MCI is often confused with “normal aging,” but is not part of the typical aging process. The Facts and Figures special report estimates that 12 to 18 percent of people age 60 or older have MCI. While some individuals with MCI revert to normal cognition or remain stable, studies suggest 10 to 15 percent of individuals with MCI go on to develop dementia each year.

MCI is characterized by subtle changes in memory and thinking. These are serious enough to be noticed by the person affected and by family members and friends but may not affect the individual’s ability to carry out everyday activities. Symptoms may include forgetting conversations, misplacing items in the home, difficulty keeping your train of thought, losing your way to a familiar place or feeling overwhelmed when making decisions or completing everyday tasks like paying a bill.

While some brain changes are inevitable as we age, there is a growing body of research to suggest that adopting healthy lifestyle behaviors, including healthy eating, exercising regularly, not smoking and staying cognitively engaged may help us age healthier and help reduce the risk of cognitive decline.

Understanding the role healthy behaviors may play in reducing cognitive decline is a robust area of current dementia research. Researchers are working to determine what may be the optimal lifestyle “recipe” to reduce cognitive decline, but in the meantime there are steps we can take now to age well and help reduce the risk of cognitive decline.

During June, the Alzheimer’s Association offers five tips to promote better brain health and help reduce the risk of cognitive decline: exercise regularly, maintain a heart-healthy diet, get proper sleep, stay socially and mentally active, and keep your heart healthy.

Incorporating these behaviors becomes especially important as we age, but they are good guidelines to follow at any age.

You can learn more about ways to reduce your risk of cognitive decline by making lifestyle changes at alz.org/dayton. The Alzheimer’s Association Miami Valley Chapter offers free education programs and services for family members, friends and those living with the disease. For more information, call 937-291-3332 or the Alzheimer’s Association 24/7 Helpline at 800-272-3900.

Dr. Jon Durrani is a Neurologist with the Dayton Center for Neurological Disorders and supporter of the Alzheimer’s Association Miami Valley Chapter

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