Keeping our brains healthy is a family endeavor. Many risk factors run in families, and change is easier together.
Risks Run in the Family
Various factors we share with our families contribute to preventing cognitive decline. Genetics likely comes to mind, but shared lifestyle and cultural factors also have a significant impact. We may share approaches to nutrition and cook similar meals. We may have similar attitudes towards exercising and ways of staying fit. Family members often share ways of approaching stress or are living with the same chronic stressors. We may share environmental factors like exposure to pollution or toxins. These factors and many more mean our risk for dementia may be similar to that of our loved ones, and many of the changes that would help us, might also help them. Making those changes is much easier together. It is helpful to have the added support of our loved ones, and some modifications like eating more nutritiously are hard to make without buy-in from the people around us.
Everyone Has a Reason to Stay Sharp
You may be thinking that you’re the only one worried about staying sharp, but if you’re worried, then one of the most important steps you can take is discussing a brain-healthy lifestyle with your family. People of all ages and life stages have a reason to care about their brain health, because the changes in the brain associated with Alzheimer’s disease can start decades before symptoms occur. Risk factors for cognitive decline span a lifetime, and the earlier you’re making healthy changes, the more impact they can have. If you’re worried about your parents, the time to take action for your own brain health is now. Or, if you’ve noticed changes in your memory, the best thing you could do for your children and grandchildren is to start talking about what it means to have brain-healthy habits. If you’re care-giving for someone with dementia, your brain health is important too. Caregivers are at higher risk for cognitive decline due to chronic stress.
Starting the Conversation
Talking about brain health with loved ones can be a frightening conversation to have, because even considering that someone you care about may get dementia is scary. Here are a few possible ways to start the conversation:
Talk about some healthy habits you have made or want to make for your brain.
We all deserve to live our sharpest lives. Starting the conversation with your family is a great first step in making that happen—for you and your loved ones!
Steve Ledvina, CHWC
Steve is a National Board-Certified Health and Wellness Coach who focuses on brain health and Alzheimer’s prevention. He helped develop the Sharp Again Group Coaching Program, is a small group coach, and serves on the organization’s Board of Directors. He also does individual coaching through his practice, Knowing Alz, and is a qualified ReCODE report practitioner. Steve’s focus on this work comes from a family history of dementia, with three of his grandparents living with it for many years. His goal is to help his family, himself, and his community create lifestyles that prevent dementia and enable long health spans. He believes in improving brain health by using precision medicine and a multi-therapeutic approach.
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