Focus on Family: 10 ways to love your brain

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Heather M. Snyder, Ph.D., Senior Director, Medical and Scientific Operations - Alzheimer's Association

Alzheimer's Association

30th Annual Alzheimer’s Association Chicago Rita Hayworth Gala
May 13
6:30 p.m.
The Hilton Chicago
720 S. Michigan Avenue

To purchase tickets:

10 Ways to Love Your Brain

Break a sweat.
Engage in regular cardiovascular exercise that elevates your heart rate and increases blood flow to the brain and body. Several studies have found an association between physical activity and reduced risk of cognitive decline.

Hit the books.
Formal education in any stage of life will help reduce your risk of cognitive decline and dementia. For example, take a class at a local college, community center or online.

Butt out.
Evidence shows that smoking increases risk of cognitive decline. Quitting smoking can reduce that risk to levels comparable to those who have not smoked.

Follow your heart.
Evidence shows that risk factors for cardiovascular disease and stroke – obesity, high blood pressure and diabetes – negatively impact your cognitive health. Take care of your heart, and your brain just might follow.

Heads up!
Brain injury can raise your risk of cognitive decline and dementia. Wear a seat belt, use a helmet when playing contact sports or riding a bike, and take steps to prevent falls.

Fuel up right.
Eat a healthy and balanced diet that is lower in fat and higher in vegetables and fruit to help reduce the risk of cognitive decline. Although research on diet and cognitive function is limited, certain diets, including Mediterranean and Mediterranean-DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension), may contribute to risk reduction.

Catch some zzz’s.
Not getting enough sleep due to conditions like insomnia or sleep apnea may result in problems with memory and thinking.

Take care of your mental health.
Some studies link a history of depression with increased risk of cognitive decline, so seek medical treatment if you have symptoms of depression, anxiety or other mental health concerns. Also, try to manage stress.

Buddy up.
Staying socially engaged may support brain health. Pursue social activities that are meaningful to you. Find ways to be part of your local community – if you love animals, consider volunteering at a local shelter. If you enjoy singing, join a local choir or help at an after school program. Or, just share activities with friends and family.

Stump yourself.
Challenge and activate your mind. Build a piece of furniture. Complete a jigsaw puzzle. Do something artistic. Play games, such as bridge, that make you think strategically. Challenging your mind may have short and long-term benefits for your brain.

What are the warning signs of Alzheimer’s?

  • The Alzheimer’s Association has developed the 10 Warning Signs of Alzheimer’s disease These include:

o       Memory changes that disrupt daily life

o       Challenges in planning or solving problems

o       Difficulty completing familiar tasks at home, at work or at leisure

o       Confusion with time or place

o       Trouble understanding visual images and spatial relationships

o       New problems with words in speaking or writing

o       Misplacing things and losing the ability to retrace steps

o       Decreased or poor judgment

o       Withdrawal from work or social activities

o       Changes in mood and personality

  • For more information, visit
  • Early diagnosis is important as it allows better access to quality medical care and support services, and provides the opportunity for people with Alzheimer’s disease to participate in decisions about their care, including providing informed consent for current and future plans