6 Ways to Slow Memory Loss and Dementia

6 Ways to Slow Memory Loss and Dementia

Have you ever forgotten where you put your keys? How about your hat? Being forgetful from time to time happens to even the youngest among us. But it’s also true that as we get older, those “senior moments” become more frequent. That’s because our memory naturally and gradually declines as we age. And while for many it leads to simple frustration from time to time, for others the memory problems become much more serious. When the forgetfulness begins to regularly interfere with day-to-day life, you might be experiencing dementia.

A dementia diagnosis can be a frightening prospect. The thought of gradually losing the memories you hold dear can be difficult, to say the least. And along with that comes more practical concerns, such as learning to accept that others will need to help you as you go through the decline of your memory and cognitive function.

It’s not an uncommon issue. According to a study in JAMA Neurology, one in ten elderly adults in the United States has dementia, and more than two in ten have some level of cognitive impairment.1 And the Alzheimer’s Association reports that about one in every nine seniors over the age of 65 has Alzheimer’s, which is a type of dementia. The vast majority of those living with Alzheimer’s today are 75 or older.2

Given those numbers, you might know someone who has dementia, or you might be aware of their struggles through talking with their friends and family members. It’s a devastating condition and while there is no cure (yet), there are many ways to try to prevent the decline or at least slow it down. And while scientists have been giving advice for years on how to do that, it always helps to have a definitive study showing that certain tactics really do work.

That’s what happened with a large study of over 29,000 people in China over the last decade. Published in the British Medical Journal in 2023, the study followed individuals over the age of 60 from 2009 to 2019. While about 10,500 of those individuals stopped participating over the course of the study, the results were still based on a large population of people.

The researchers established a baseline for each patient’s cognitive abilities and tested for the APOE gene that predicts the development of Alzheimer’s. They then looked at six particular lifestyle factors that could influence cognitive resilience. The study found that the more of the healthy lifestyle factors a person incorporated into their life, the slower their cognitive abilities declined.3

What were those lifestyle factors and how did they seem to affect the study participants? Let’s look at what the researchers found and what that might mean for you.

1.      Eat a Balanced Diet

The old saying “you are what you eat” has some ring of truth to it. Everything we put into our bodies somehow affects our bones, skin, muscles, and brain, all the way down to the cellular level. So if you choose a balanced diet filled with fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lots of protein and healthy fats, you are well on your way to protecting both your body and your mind. The study found that a healthy diet was the top factor in slowing the rate of dementia.

Research keeps piling up about the benefits of the Mediterranean Diet and the MIND Diet (which is short for Mediterranean-DASH Diet Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay). The latest research published in 2023 shows that both diets led to 40% lower odds of developing the telltale plaques and tangles that are known hallmarks of Alzheimer’s disease.4 A study from 2017 on the benefits of these diets found that those who followed them reduced their odds of dementia by one-third.5

2.      Get Out and Get Social

Social isolation and loneliness can play a role in the onset of memory problems and cognitive impairment. Social isolation is linked with a 50% increase in the odds of dementia!6 The study found that those who engaged with others at least twice per week had lower rates of dementia than those who kept to themselves most of the time.

There are many ways to stay social. You can spend time with friends and family, join a volunteer group, pick up a new hobby and talk with others who are already into it, chat in online message boards about whatever tickles your fancy, and get involved with your community. These are just a few “tip of the iceberg” ideas to keep your mind and spirit engaged with others.

Whether you are out and about with friends or staying at home while you talk on video chat, it’s a good idea to consider a medical alert pendant for seniors to keep you company. These powerful emergency response solutions put the control of your good health in your hands, allowing you to be proactive in calling for help if you suffer an accident, fall, or other medical emergency. These medical alarms can give you the peace of mind you need to put your best food forward in any social situation.

3.      Avoid Drinking

Though having one or two drinks is an acceptable societal norm, drinking too much can spell serious trouble for your health. The study found that those who drink occasionally or never drink at all had better odds of avoiding dementia.

If you do choose to enjoy an alcoholic sip once in a while, make sure you know your limits. And if you want to try boosting brain health while you imbibe, go with wine – some studies say it lowers your odds of developing dementia by 19%.7

4.      Don’t Smoke

The negative effects of smoking have been documented in tens of thousands of studies over decades. Smoking affects every part of your body, including your brain, and none of those effects are good. Those in the study who never smoked ranked better in their odds of not developing dementia, but those who were former smokers ranked well too. That means that no matter how long you’ve been smoking, there is never a bad time to quit.

Have you tried to quit but you need help getting there? Cessation help can be found in support groups, medications, over-the-counter aids, and even counseling and hypnotherapy. The great news is that as soon as you stop smoking, the body starts working to repair the damage – and that includes your brain working hard to reduce the effects that smoking had on your system. The longer you go without smoking, the more health you will regain.

5.      Exercise the Mind

Have you tried a challenging crossword lately? How about some Sudoku? Jigsaw puzzles, card games, or reading a great book are all ways to relax while you engage your mind. If those things aren’t stimulating enough, why not try picking up a video game controller to check out all the games the younger folks are talking about?

Keeping your brain active matters greatly to its overall health and longevity, and exercising the brain just as you exercise the body is a key to success. Those in the study who engaged in mental exercises at least twice per week showed a lower risk of dementia.

You can combine these cognitive exercises with being social to get an even greater benefit. So the next time you’re feeling bored, invite friends over for a friendly game of poker, pull out that challenging jigsaw puzzle, or follow a recipe to create a new favorite for dinner. If you’re always on the go, consider downloading crosswords or Sudoku games on your phone or tablet. And for those who are on the go, an Alert1 mobile medical alarm with GPS is the perfect safety companion. Just press that button and help will be on your way, whether it’s a friend or family member you designated as your contact or emergency services in the event of a dire situation. Rest assured that you are never alone!


6.      Get Your Body Moving

Though doctors have long recommended cognitive tasks to keep your brain sharp, exercising your body can enhance your brain power too. Study participants who exercised at least 150 minutes per week at a moderate pace or 75 minutes per week at a vigorous pace were less likely to develop dementia later in life.

Before starting any exercise program, talk to your doctor about what would work best for you. Some with mobility issues might need a lower-impact program. Those who have injuries might need to tailor exercise to suit what they can do without further injury. For instance, walking and water aerobics are low-impact exercises that can help those who have aches and pains that make exercising difficult.

It’s a great idea to wear a senior life-saving alert system all the time, including during exercise and even in the shower. Simply press the button alarm if you need help fast.

Can These Six Healthy Factors Overcome the APOE Gene?

Genetics can be equal parts fascinating and terrifying. That’s especially true if you have a particular genetic trait that makes you more likely to develop a certain condition or disease. That’s the case with those who test positive for the APOE gene, which has a link to the development of Alzheimer’s disease.

The good news is that the recent study found those who carry the gene but engaged in the positive lifestyle factors saw the same benefits as those who don’t carry the gene. That can bring great hope to those who worry about having the APOE gene or feel as though there is nothing they can do to prevent or slow the decline it might cause. 

Though genetics can’t be changed, an approach to a healthy lifestyle can certainly improve your odds of slowing down any sort of damage to the body and brain. Take that good momentum further by incorporating other great ways to protect your brain, including the use of a medical alert device for elderly adults.

Choosing a medical alert system with fall detection is the best idea, as it provides an added layer of protection. If you suffer a fall, the device can call the monitoring center on your behalf, without the need to even press the handy panic button. That can be especially important if you fall down and hit your head, as traumatic brain injury can lead to serious consequences if not treated right away – and in fact, severe head injury has been linked to development of dementia in later years.8

It’s never too late to start doing the things you need to keep your brain as sharp as possible. Make these lifestyle habits a mainstay of your day-to-day life and you can be rest assured that you’re doing the best you can to sustain your good health as you age.