— Add folate. This B vitamin helps slow cognitive decline in older people. Good sources of folate, aka folic acid, include fortified breakfast cereals, dark-green leafy vegetables, asparagus, strawberries, beans and beef liver.
— Get E and C. Studies suggest that, when taken together, these vitamins may lower the risk of Alzheimer's disease. The recommended dietary allowance of vitamin E is 15 milligrams per day from foods such as nuts, vegetable oils, seeds, wheat germ, spinach and other dark green leafy vegetables. The recommended daily allowance of vitamin C is 75 milligrams per day for women and 90 milligrams for men. Food sources include oranges, grapefruits, asparagus, brussels sprouts, broccoli, bell peppers, collard greens, cabbage, cauliflower, kale, potatoes, spinach and turnip greens.
— Monitor medication use. Some memory loss and dementia can be traced to harmful drug combinations or inappropriate drug use. Read labels and follow instructions carefully.
— Drink moderately. Alcohol damages brain function. According to a University of North Carolina study, brain cells are restored when people abstain from excessive alcohol consumption. Limit yourself to no more than one drink a day if you are over 65. (One drink translates to 350ml of beer, 45ml of distilled spirits or 150ml of wine.)
— Stop smoking. It causes long-term changes in the chemical function of the brain, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Smoking also significantly increases your risk of stroke, heart disease, lung cancer, emphysema and chronic bronchitis.
— Maintain a healthy weight. Obesity in middle age has been linked to development of dementia in later life. Being underweight also carries risks such as poor memory.
— Take care of your teeth. Gum disease is linked to Alzheimer's disease and heart disease. Brush and floss daily and see a dentist regularly.
— Exercise the mind. Challenge yourself intellectually to stimulate new areas of your brain and grow more brain connections. Solve a puzzle, read a book, learn a new musical instrument, play a board or card game or write a short story.
— Reduce stress. The hormones our bodies release when we are under stress may shrink the brain, affecting memory and learning.
— Protect your head. Head injuries impact brain function.
— Stay connected. Join a book club or a volunteer group and interact with the world around you.
Source: Geriatric Mental Health Foundation, National Alzheimer's Association
WHAT'S NORMAL, WHAT'S NOT
As we age, simple tasks can become increasingly challenging. Here's a little help to determine between a typical sign of aging and what could be the beginning stage of something more serious.
— Memory loss.
What's normal? Forgetting names or appointments occasionally.
What's not? Forgetting recently learned information is one of the most common early signs of dementia. A person begins to forget more often and is unable to recall the information later.
— Difficulty performing familiar tasks.
What's normal? Occasionally forgetting why you came into a room or what you planned to say.
What's not? Finding it hard to plan or complete everyday tasks. People with dementia may lose track of the steps to prepare a meal, place a telephone call or play a game.