Most Important Resolutions Not to Make about Brain Health

New Year's Resolutions/muharrem öner/ E+ /Getty Images.
  • Need a new knee or a new hip? We can do that.
  • Lose your foot? There's a prosthetic for that, although it's clearly not ideal.
  • Need a new ticker? We can even transplant a replacement heart into your body.
  • Lose your memory? (Silence. *Crickets chirping*.) 

With all of the amazing medical advancements and treatments available, we're still struggling with how to treat the memory loss, personality changes and behavior challenges that result from dementia.

In fact, the current treatments that are approved to treat Alzheimer's disease are so minimally effective that the medical community has taken the position that the most effective treatment is prevention.

Your brain is a big part of what makes you who you are, so resolve this year to take better care of it while you can by NOT making these 8 resolutions:

1. Dementia prevention can wait until I'm older.

Brain deterioration begins years, even decades, before we see evidence of dementia such as memory loss or poor decision-making skills. You are never too young or too old to exercise the "muscles" in your brain, and scientific research has repeatedly shown a decreased risk of cognitive decline in those who are mentally active, even in the early and middle years of life.

    2. Cutting calories is what's important.

    Maybe you've decided you'd like to lose a little weight in this new year- one of the most common resolutions people make. That's great. But while you're at it, pay attention to what you're eating, not just how much food you're eating or how many calories you're consuming.

    There are several foods that science has connected with a lower risk of dementia, and many of them are also good for your heart and overall health. Choose wisely, and protect your brain.

    3. I'm already at risk for dementia, and I'm just going to work at accepting that.

    Don't give your genetics and family history more power than they deserve. Got a higher risk of dementia because you have a family history of it or your relatives are APOE-4 genetic carriers? Okay. This is good information for you to have, and all the more reason for your to be active in your quest for brain health. Just because there is a risk for dementia does NOT necessarily mean you will develop dementia. You can exert some control over these factors by actively working on prevention.

    4. I made it through school; now, I can relax and coast for the rest of my life.

    No time to work out your brain? Science shows that continuing to learn and stretch your brain helps reduce your risk for dementia and can improve your memory and cognitive functioning today as well.

    5. Sleep is optional: I've got lots of living to do.

    Got so much going on that it's hard to get a full night of sleep? I hear you. But if you're not paying attention to the amount and quality of your sleep, you're risking both current and future memory loss and cognitive decline. It's that important.

    6. I'll exercise to lose weight and look great.

    Looking great is not a bad goal. But there are (what I would consider) even more important reasons to lose weight if you're carrying extra pounds. Physical exercise can improve the health and function of the one and only brain you have. Being overweight is tied to an increased risk for cognitive decline, so the next time the couch is calling you, think of your brain and summon the will to protect it.

    7. I'll try to cut back on the salt I use, but I'm going to enjoy my sugar since I'm not diabetic.

    Who doesn't love sugar and salt? But, both of these have risks to your brain. Consuming high amounts of sugar has been tied to cognitive decline even in those without diabetes, and type 2 diabetes (which is more likely to develop if you're overweight and consume a lot of sugar) is highly connected to the development of dementia.

    8. I'm just going to focus on enjoying the moment.

    It's important to live fully in the moment we're experiencing at the time. Mindfulness training has even been researched and found to be a beneficial way to cope with the challenges of dementia- for both caregivers and those with dementia. However, a lack of thought for how today's choices translate into tomorrow's effects is harmful. Being intentional with how we live today significantly affects our quality of life for tomorrow.

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