By Dr. Anthony Policastro

Cognitive decline and development of Alzheimer’s Disease remain a concern as people age. There is no clear single way to avoid these issues.

However, there are many ways to approach our overall physical health. Many of these behaviors are associated with a decreased risk of cognitive decline over the long term.

We know that disorders like hypertension and diabetes are associated with higher risk than average. The goal for hypertension is to keep the top number below 130. The goal for diabetes is to keep the Hb-A-1-c level below seven percent.

Physical activity is associated with a decreased risk level. The goal for physical activity is to have a total exercise goal of 150 minutes per week.

Sleep can play a role. Individuals with sleep apnea are at higher risk. Interestingly, individuals who take excessive daytime naps are at higher risk. The total amount of sleep at night is important. 

Some people have trouble falling asleep. Some have problems staying asleep. However, getting seven to eight hours total sleep a night appears more important than those other issues.

Nutrition plays a significant role. Limiting high-fat dairy products, red meats, fried foods and processed sugary foods is helpful. Increasing green leafy and cruciferous vegetables is helpful. Increasing beans, berries and nuts is helpful. A recent study suggested that daily vitamin intake might be helpful.

Social isolation is associated with impaired cognitive performance and cognitive decline. Positive social connections are helpful. Never leaving the house or traveling limit the necessary stimulation.

Cognitive stimulation is beneficial. That may take the form of non-fiction reading. It make take the form of arts and crafts. It may take the form of strategy games. It may take the form of performing arts. It may take the form of meditation. 

There are multiple other factors. Their association is not as strong. However, it is a matter of every little bit helps. They include things like not smoking. They include things like treating hearing loss. They include things like not drinking excessive amounts of alcohol.

The bottom line is that there are many things that we can do to decrease the risk of Alzheimer’s Disease and cognitive decline. And the even better news is that doing those things will also make us healthier in general. Therefore, there is little downside to this type of healthy living style.

COVID update- National figures continue to drop. New cases have decreased from 469,000 last week to 414,000 this week. That is their lowest level since April 25. Sussex County numbers remain fairly steady. They went from 248 last week to 273 this week. We remain in the medium risk zone.

Hopefully, the new modified vaccines will give us a chance to be more prepared immunologically for what will likely be a winter surge. We are already expecting a bad flu season this year based upon the numbers from the winter months in the Southern Hemisphere.