This is the time of year when we often think about shaping up and slimming down. We promise to workout more and eat healthy. When people think about wellness, we tend to think about it from the neck down. But the health of your brain plays a critical role in almost everything you do. Research has shown that an active and sharp mind can be a great defense against Alzheimer's disease and other forms of dementia. There is a lot people can do to help keep their brain healthy as they age, and many suggestions are fun and easy to do.The Alzheimer's Association offers these simple tips to "Maintain Your Brain:" * Take brain health to heart -- Heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes and stroke can increase the risk of Alzheimer's; * Your numbers count -- Keep your body weight, cholesterol and blood sugar levels within recommended ranges; * Feed your brain -- Eat a low-fat, low-cholesterol diet that includes dark-skinned vegetables and fruits, as well as foods rich in antioxidants, vitamins E, C and B-2, folate and omega-3 fatty acids; * Work your body -- Physical exercise keeps the blood flowing and encourages new brain cells. It does not have to be a strenuous activity. Do what you can -- such as walking 30 minutes a day -- to keep both body and mind active; * Jog your mind -- Read, write, play games, do crossword puzzles. Keeping your brain active and engaged increases its vitality and builds reserves of brain cells and connections; * Connect with others -- Be social, converse, volunteer, join. A recent study reported that leisure activities that combine physical, mental and social activity may help to prevent dementia;* Heads up! Protect your brain -- Take precautions against injuries. Use car seat belts, reduce clutter in your house to avoid falls and wear a helmet when cycling; and* Use your head -- Avoid unhealthy habits. Don't smoke, drink excessive alcohol or use illegal drugs. Dementia is a general term for a group of brain disorders. Alzheimer's Disease is the most common type of dementia, accounting for 50 to 70 percent of cases. Alzheimer's gradually destroys one's memory and ability to learn, reason, make judgments, communicate and carry out daily activities. Although symptoms can vary widely, the first problem many people with Alzheimer's notice is forgetfulness severe enough to affect their work, lifelong hobbies or social life. More than seven out of 10 people with Alzheimer's disease live at home, where family and friends provide nearly 75 percent of their care. According to the Alzheimer's Association, care for individuals with Alzheimer's costs at least $100 billion nationally each year. If you or a loved one are experiencing the early symptoms of dementia, visit a physician. The Alzheimer's Association offers information, education, caregiver assistance and support. To find a local chapter in your area, call 1-800-272-3900 or visit www.alz.org. For information on caregiver assistance, contact an Area Agency on Aging at 1-866-243-5678.