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Feature Articles - Aging


Tips to help prevent dementia

Tammy Roberts, MS, RD, LD, Nutrition and Health Education Specialist, Barton County, University of Missouri Extension


Dementia and loss of memory are concerns for older adults. Misplacing items or forgetting a friend’s name are frustrating signs that an adult’s memory is not as sharp as it once was. Unfortunately, the brain reaches its peak of functioning when adults are in their 20s. However, maintaining healthy habits is the most effective way for adults to keep their brains and memories strong.


Exercise is a great way to keep memory at peak performance. A recent study done by Arthur Kramer of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign found that the gray matter of the brain increased after six months of a brisk, 45-minute walk three times per week. Another memory study showed that women who walked for one and a half hours per week scored better on memory tests than those who walked less than 40 minutes per week.


A trim waist also helps keep the memory strong. Middle-age adults with belly fat are three times more likely to have dementia than those without. Another reason to stay in shape is to avoid type 2 diabetes, which increases the risk of cognitive decline.


Maintaining normal blood pressure also helps prevent dementia. Researchers think that high blood pressure causes tiny strokes that damage the brain and cause dementia. These small strokes are undetectable until it is too late.


Although many people don’t consider their morning coffee a healthy habit, there is research that says it may keep the mind young. Caffeine revs up the brain in areas tied to short term memory and attention. Recent research shows that mice given the human equivalent of 500 milligrams of caffeine did better on memory tests than those that did not receive caffeine.


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Last update: Monday, March 13, 2017