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Brain health is a hot topic among older adults and for good reason. About 50 million people around the globe are living with dementia; by 2030 that number is expected to hit 82 million, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
While dementia risk increases with age, it's important to note that the disease is not an inevitable part of the aging process. Many people live into their 90s and beyond without significant declines in thinking and behavior, according to the National Institute on Aging. And you have more control than you may think when it comes to mitigating your risk.
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"There's no guarantee that you won't get dementia, but you can significantly increase your odds of getting a better result,” says Sarah Lenz Lock, senior vice president for policy at AARP. Lock is also executive director of the AARP-founded Global Council on Brain Health (GCBH), which for five years has been convening experts and publishing reports that equip people with actionable and scientifically grounded information on the aging brain, including ways to maintain and improve brain health throughout adulthood.
Along the way, the GCBH has debunked many myths and misconceptions on the aging brain. Here are five from the council's recent reports.
Myth 1: Diet and exercise are good for heart health but don't do much for the brain.
Truth: What's good for your heart is also good for your brain. A recent GCBH report found that managing high blood pressure, eating a healthy diet and exercising regularly all provide serious cardiovascular and brain benefits. One reason: The brain is a vascular organ and “both healthy blood vessel walls and strong blood flow are crucial for a healthy brain,” the council explains.