Cognitive decline is not only a worrying thought, it's also a very real possibility for most of us - and it's not just the elderly at risk. It may seen as though this is a part of the normal ageing process, but sometimes it can be significantly more serious than that: We're talking, of course, about dementia.
The most common form of dementia is Alzheimer's Disease, or AD. The exact cause of AD is currently unknown, though there have been many studies looking into potential causes, such as genetic links. There is currently no cure.
Discovered only last century, studies have shown that the onset of AD often begins at least 20 years before any symptoms start to appear - sometimes even longer. The sad reality of this situation is that these early, undetectable years are the critical years for treatment options - once symptoms start to appear, it's already too late.
AD causes a dramatic loss of brain tissue and the death of nerves in the brain; this leads to brain shrinkage. Nearly all of the brain's functions are affected by this, the most notable being memory and cognitive function. As the disease progresses in severity, it may lead to behavioural changes, and even hallucinations.
The hopeful news is that there are some very basic things we can do to reduce our risk of developing AD, and they're something everyone can add into their daily lives.
1: Physical activity.
Exercise, exercise, exercise! We all known physical activity is good for the body and mind, and there are more benefits than we can count, so get your 30 minutes a day. Cardio and strength training exercises are good options for lowering your risk of AD. Any physical activity is better than none.
2: Balanced diet.
Just like exercise, your diet directly affects your health, both physically and mentally. Keep your body healthy and mind sharp by getting your daily leafy greens, fresh fruits and wholegrains. Lean proteins like fish, poultry and legumes are fantastic options, too. Remember: Eat the rainbow!
3. Brain teasers.
Stimulating mental activities help to keep your brain sharp. Wind down with a quiet sudoku or crossword; pick up a new hobby, learn to play an instrument, learn a new skill - you're never to old to start something new, or pick back up an old loved pass time!