Keeping up your driving skills is another important way to hold onto your independence and relationships as you age.
But you may start to experience some age-related declines in faculties—including vision impairments, joint stiffness, reductions in reaction time, loss of muscle strength, and decreased mobility.
And these common complaints can certainly affect your confidence (and comfort) when driving a car…especially over long distances.
However, a new study just found that we should be looking at a person’s driving HABITS.
In fact, researchers found that FOUR subtle changes in driving habits can accurately predict the likelihood that you will develop dementia or Alzheimer’s disease (AD)—and therefore, be forced to give up your driver’s license.
So, today, let’s talk about what those changes are. Then, I’ll share with you some tips for how keep your mind and body sharp for the long haul…
Clear link between FOUR driving habits and dementia
There’s no question that the dementia and AD epidemic will be one of the biggest, far-reaching problems our country will face in the coming decades. Making this new research vitally important for everyone.
Researchers tracked driving habits in 139 people, ages 65 years and older, over a one-year period using an in-vehicle Global Positioning System (GPS) device.
At the study’s outset, all the participants had “normal” cognition in standardized testing, a valid driver’s license, and drove at least weekly, on average.
The participants also underwent spinal fluid testing for the presence of AD “biomarkers.”
It turns out, 64 of the participants had some signs of “preclinical AD” in their biomarker testing, and 75 did not. (Preclinical AD is when early AD brain changes are present, but cognitive symptoms have not yet manifested. Though, as I often report, biomarker testing for AD is FAR from accurate. And relying on it to diagnose AD is a BIG mistake!)
Then, the researchers tracked the participants’ driving habits over the next year. Ultimately, the GPS tracking found that THESE four habits could be early indicators of AD:
1.) “Jerky” driving or making sudden changes while on the road.
2.) Driving more slowly.
3.) Shorter trip lengths, using fewer routes, with a limited range of destinations.
4.) Fewer nighttime trips.
Using this driving pattern data, the researchers built a computer model that could predict a person’s probability of getting full-blown AD with more than 80 percent accuracy. Plus, when factoring age into the model, the predictability increased to almost 90 percent! (In comparison, the “biomarker” testing I mentioned earlier is far less reliable.)
Take steps to support your driving skills as you get older
Thankfully, there are many steps you can take to support your driving skills (and your cognitive ability) as you get older. And by following them, you’ll help protect everyone on the road…
1.) Participate in refresher and safety courses. I see many refresher courses offered in Florida through AARP or AAA. I encourage you to browse their websites for more information.
2.) Go for regular, brisk walks. The ability to walk well is a sign of good health, independence, and mobility in older adults. In fact, I’ve reported on how studies show a good gait is the single, best predictor of longevity. So, make sure to go for regular, brisk walks. And when you run errands, park at the far end of the parking lot to give yourself a longer walk into the store. After all, the more active you are off the road, the better your driving habits will (likely) be, as a result.
3.) Protect your joints. Pain and stiffness can really hinder your ability to drive a car safely. So, be sure to find ways to keep those joints in good working order. I suggest supplementing daily with my “ABCs of joint health,” which includes ashwagandha, boswellia, and curcumin. Together, this natural trio even outperforms arthritis drugs in relieving pain and stiffness.
4.) Keep up muscle strength. It probably goes without saying that you must have good muscle strength to drive a car, as it affects everything from your posture to your ability to get in and out of the car independently. Of course, as I always report, eating more protein is one of the best ways to support muscle strength as you get older—especially if you’re a man. But studies show most men don’t get nearly enough protein daily. So, make sure you eat plenty of grass-fed, organic meats and wild-caught fish every day.
5.) Keep the brain firing. As you know, I don’t put much stock in online “brain training” games. However, you can—and should—protect your cognitive ability in other ways. For example, as I regularly report, blueberries offer remarkable short- and long-term benefits for cognition and memory. I also recommend enjoying three to four cups of coffee in the morning. Not only will the coffee keep you sharp behind the wheel, it also has many other health benefits as well.
In the end, finding ways to stay active and engaged in the world around you will prove most beneficial to your cognitive function—and your driving ability. So, join a book club. Attend a lecture at your local library. Take a cooking class. The possibilities are endless. (You can even practice driving to these activities!)
Plus, you can learn additional natural approaches to preventing—and even reversing—this terrible brain disease in my comprehensive Complete Alzheimer’s Fighting Protocol. For more information about this online learning tool, or to enroll today, simply click here.
P.S. Veterans Day, when we honor all of those who served in the U.S. Armed Forces, is coming up next week. So, when you’re on the road and see those veteran license plates, remember to drive carefully and a little more respectfully.
“GPS driving: a digital biomarker for preclinical Alzheimer disease.” Alz Res Therapy 13, 115 (2021). doi.org/10.1186/s13195-021-00852-1