Four Simple Daily Habits for Brain Health

Alzheimer's is one of the biggest reasons people require long-term health care, which can be very costly and hard on loved ones. Can your diet or activity be helpful is reducing the risk of dementia? Four things may be helpful.

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Four Simple Daily Habits for Brain Health
1 Min Read April 8th, 2017 Updated:October 15th, 2022

A review of data from the U.K. Biobank revealed that symptoms of brain impairment could be seen as early as nine years before a person was given an official diagnosis of Alzheimer's or another disease associated with dementia.

Timothy Rittman, BMBS, BMedSci, Ph.D., of the University of Cambridge in England, and co-authors reported in Alzheimer's & Dementia that baseline examinations for a number of neurodegenerative disorders revealed cognitive and functional abnormalities five to nine years before diagnosis.

No wonder why so many people are concerned about memory issues as we age. Alzheimer's and dementia are one of the biggest reasons people require long-term health care, which impacts your family, your lifestyle, and your savings. Alzheimer's disease is the most common cause of dementiaaffecting an estimated 6.5 million Americans age 65 and older.

Help Your Brain Stay Healthy

Dr. Constantine George Lyketsos, Director of the Memory and Alzheimer's Treatment Center at Johns Hopkins, says that there are ways to help keep your brain more powerful throughout your aging process.

There are four things that are suggested:

  • Heart Healthy Diet - Brains need good blood flow. John Hopkins recommends a Mediterranean diet that includes fruits and vegetables, lean protein, fish, and good fats like those found in nuts, olive oil, and avocado.

  • Keep Moving - According to studies, frequent, moderate to vigorous physical activity can cut the incidence of dementia by up to 50%. Dr. Lyketsos says the important thing is to pick a plan you'll stick with while occasionally switching things up.

Walking is a great exercise for brain health.

  • Challenge Yourself Mentally - Whatever it is you already do to exercise your brain (puzzles, reading, games), progressively raise the difficulty and duration of the activity while maintaining enjoyment. Even better, pick up a new skill, like learning a new language or a musical instrument that is outside of your comfort zone. The goal is to keep your brain's regular processing areas engaged while also using previously underutilized regions.

  • Be Social - Make an effort to stay connected to friends and family as you get older. Lyketsos says it gets harder as you age, especially if you live far from family or don't drive as much as you used to. However, it is important to make an effort.

People really dread moving out of their homes and into retirement communities—but in fact, those communities have a built-in social connection.

New Research Being Done

There is more and more research into dementia as an aging society is now dealing with the consequences of millions of people with cognitive decline. Families often must step in to become caregivers, or personal savings must be drained to pay for quality professional caregivers or long-term care facilities. 

Too many people think health insurance and Medicare will pay for these long-term care services, but they don't for most of the care that is required. The cost of care is increasing dramatically, adversely impacting the finances of many American families. 

While the steps outlined above can benefit your health, they may not reduce your actual risk of dementia. According to a recent study, there are no conclusive links between adherence to conventional dietary recommendations nor to the Mediterranean diet and a reduced risk of all-cause dementia, Alzheimer's, or vascular dementia.

Does Diet Help Prevent Dementia? Maybe Not

Lund University researchers analyzed dietary data from 28,025 people in Sweden over a 20-year timeframe. The study author Dr. Isabelle Glans, research and doctoral student at Lund University, looked to investigate the role diet plays in the development of dementia.

While our study does not rule out a possible association between diet and dementia, we did not find a link in our study, which had a long follow-up period, included younger participants than some other studies, and did not require people to remember what foods they had eaten regularly years before.

One thing most health professionals will agree upon is good health habits will benefit your overall health, and taking proactive action may help you as you get older.

Declining Health and Aging Increase the Risk 

The need for long-term health care continues to increase as we continue to grow longevity. At some point, we will have chronic health issues develop, mobility problems, and frailty, in addition to dementia.

The financial costs and burdens of aging will impact you and your family at some point. If you have a family history of memory issues, you are at greater risk. If you don't have that family history, it does not immune you from having Alzheimer's or dementia. 

About half of us who reach the age of 65 will need help with daily living activities or supervision due to dementia. The question is, are you prepared?

Being Prepared Benefits Families and Finances

One way to be sure you have enough funds to pay for your choice of quality care service, no matter why you need them, is by adding an affordable Long-Term Care Insurance policy to your retirement plan.

Your 401(k) won't be enough (for most people) to pay for all the care you need. Even if you have substantial savings, draining assets and negatively impacting legacy are usually not a priority. 

LTC Insurance will safeguard your future retirement income and savings (401(k), IRA, 403(b)), and other assets from the consequences that come from aging and long-term health care. 

An LTC insurance policy will do more than just protect assets. A policy will also ease the burden that is placed on a family because of a long-term care event.

Prepare Before You Retire

The best time to plan is before you retire when you enjoy good health and much lower premiums. Premiums are based, in part, on the age of application and are intended to remain level. Plans can vary, and the cost of plans also varies. 

Long-Term Care specialist can help you decide what coverage if any, is appropriate in your situation.

Don't forget (ok, maybe not that funny) your health can change at any time. Long-Term Care Insurance is medically underwritten, so you are unable to purchase coverage when you have dementia or other significant health problems. Most people get their coverage in their 50s.

There are several highly rated insurance companies that offer tax-qualified Long-Term Care Insurance that meets federal guidelines. These policies have guaranteed benefit triggers, consumer protections, and tax incentives.

Be sure to find a qualified Long-Term Care Insurance specialist to match your age, health, and family history with the right insurance company so you can get accurate quotes from the top companies.

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About the Author

An LTC News author focusing on long-term care and aging.

LTC News Contributor James Kelly

James Kelly

Contributor since August 21st, 2017

Editor's Note

Before you realize it, you're on the verge of retiring from work. Are you equipped to handle the difficulties that aging may present for your family and finances?

When a loved one requires long-term health care, families all too frequently enter crisis mode. We dismiss the effects of aging and the possibility of needing assistance with daily tasks yet the consequences on our loved ones can be dramatic.

Due to deteriorating health, mobility issues, dementia, and the fragility of age, people need assistance with daily chores. We must either self-fund care or ask our family to take on caregiving responsibilities, or both, because health insurance and Medicare pay little to nothing for the majority of long-term healthcare.

A reasonably priced Long-Term Care Insurance coverage can help you protect your 401(k) and other assets.

Tools and Resources Available on LTC NEWS

There are a variety of tools and resources that LTC NEWS offers that can help you in your research:

·    How Much is Long-Term Care Insurance? – Premiums can vary dramatically between insurance companies. There are several factors that go into pricing, including your age, health, and family history.

·    What Options are Available? – The base policy has many benefits, but you would probably want to add items like inflation benefits, shared spousal benefits, and more.

How About Elderly Parents?

If your older parents or family members are declining and need help now, what can you do to help? You can get help finding quality caregivers or long-term care facilities and get recommendations for a proper care plan, whether or not they have an LTC policy. - Filing a Long-Term Care Insurance Claim | LTC News

If your loved one is lucky enough to own a Long-Term Care Insurance policy, be sure they use it. Sometimes families wait, thinking they can save the benefits for a rainy day. Waiting on using available Long-Term Care Insurance benefits is not a wise idea. 

Is a Reverse Mortgage Helpful?

Today's reverse mortgages for those aged 62 and older could be an ideal resource. You can fund a Long-Term Care Insurance policy OR even provide money to pay for care if you, or a loved one, already needs help and assistance. 

You might be eligible at younger ages as well. 

Some people have much of their savings invested in their homes. With today's reverse mortgages, you can find ways to fund care solutions, care itself, and even help with cash flow during your retirement. 

Learn more by asking questions to an expert. Mike Banner, LTC NEWS columnist and host of the TV Show "62 Who Knew," will answer your questions regarding caregiving, aging, health, retirement planning, long-term care, and reverse mortgages. 

- Just "Ask Mike." - Reverse Mortgages | LTC News.

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