A major study set out to find which activities are most effective at preventing dementia. After analyzing data from more than 2 million adults, the researchers at Peking University narrowed it down to 3 main areas.
The winners are mental stimulation, physical exercise, and socializing. What makes the findings especially useful is that most of these pastimes require little expense and no special skills.
Dementia is a growing concern for many individuals and society as a whole. In the US alone, about 6 million adults are affected by Alzheimer’s disease and related conditions, and the percentages are expected to increase as the population ages.
COVID-19 may exacerbate the situation too. Research continues on its neurological symptoms, including difficulties with concentration and memory, especially in those experiencing long COVID.
While there are risk factors you can’t control, like age and genetics, adopting a healthy lifestyle can help. Learn more about how to use your leisure time to stay mentally sharp.
Stimulating Your Brain
Mental activities provided the most powerful benefits, reducing dementia risks by up to 23%. Using your brain strengthens your thinking skills and slows down cognitive decline.
Try these activities:
1. Read books. Set a goal for how many pages you’ll read each day. Enjoy your favorite subjects and explore new genres. Keep reading materials at home and in your car.
2. Listen to music. Create playlists for your morning run and household chores. Attend concerts in local parks or on your radio. Resume your old piano lessons or buy a ukulele.
3. Write for pleasure. Set aside time in the morning or before bed for journaling. Start small with just 5 or 10 minutes at a time. Imagine you’re talking with yourself or a close friend.
4. Make art. Express your creativity. Focus on projects that interest you. If you’re on a low budget, try paper crafts or macrame.
Staying Physically Active
Moving around keeps blood and oxygen flowing to your brain. You’ll lower your chances of developing dementia by about 17% while you manage your weight and boost your energy levels.
These activities can help you stay active:
1. Do aerobics. Engage in workouts that strengthen your heart, like running, swimming, and cycling. Increase the intensity gradually and be sure to warm up and cool down.
2. Enjoy sports. Maybe you think playing games is more fun than visiting the gym. Sign up for the softball league at work or find a partner for racquet sports.
Connecting with Others
With an impact of 7%, socializing had a smaller but still significant effect. Sharing support relieves daily tensions and makes you less prone to depression and anxiety.
These activities can help you connect more with others:
1. Spend time with loved ones. Make hanging out with your family and friends a top priority. Eat at least one meal together each day. Schedule standing dates for coffee or playing board games. Plan outings and parties. Engage in fun activities and deep conversations.
2. Volunteer your services. Give back to your community. Organize a charity run at work or collect winter coats for the homeless. Contact your local library or parks department or research causes that are important to you.
3. Join a club. Find others who share your interests. Become more involved in activities at your church. Browse for Meetup events in your area or start your own group.
Currently there is no cure for dementia, but early diagnosis and intervention may make medications more effective. Meanwhile, challenging your body and mind and staying social can help you stay healthier as you age.