As the population ages, many more people must deal with diminishing cognitive abilities that signal the onset of dementia. More help is available for dementia than ever before in terms of medication, social services and specialised care. Ageing is the greatest single risk factor for dementia, but genetics and lifestyle also play a part. The actions you take today to keep your body and mind healthy can pay off in healthy cognition throughout your life. This article offers six tips for reducing your risk of dementia.
Eat a healthy diet
Diseases affecting the heart or circulatory system can increase your chances of getting dementia, so having a healthy diet can help you prevent dementia. Health experts recommend a diet that is rich in leafy, green vegetables, lean meats, fish, nuts, fruits, low-fat dairy products and healthy oils like canola and olive oil. Foods such as these, which form part of a heart-healthy diet, help to improve vascular function throughout the body, which is vital in transporting oxygen and nutrients to support the function of the brain. Vascular dementia is a result of a reduction in blood flow to the brain, killing brain cells. Therefore, eating any foods that improve vascular function is encouraged.
Foods that are rich in antioxidants, such a colourful fruits and vegetables, can be of special help to reduce damage to the brain that can occur over time. Additionally, foods that contain omega-3 fatty acids, such as fish and nuts, have a neuroprotective quality that can help to reduce the risk of dementia. Foods such as red meats, butter, cheese and fried or fast food should be either limited in your diet or cut out completely if you want to maximise the cognitive and health benefits of eating a healthy diet.
Reducing the risk of dementia is one of a growing list of benefits that regular exercise has on the human body. Studies show that those who exercise on a regular basis can reduce their risk for Alzheimer's disease by 50%. Vigorous exercise of any kind, whether it is walking, cycling, tennis or working out at the gym, can improve the function of the circulatory system, improving blood flow and nutrients to the brain, as well as causing the release of hormones, aiding brain cell growth.
Exercise can even help to slow the progress of dementia in those who have already been diagnosed. If you are not an active person now, you should consider starting to incorporate more exercise into your daily routine in order to get this important benefit from regular physical activity and boost your likelihood of dementia prevention.
Manage your weight
Another factor that can affect your risk of dementia is obesity. Individuals who are significantly over the recommended weight in middle age have an increased risk of developing Alzheimer's and other types of dementia. Obesity puts people at prime risk for type-2 diabetes, for which we have a separate guide for carers. Type-2 diabetes affects blood vessels throughout the body, including the brain. Keeping your weight at recommended levels can help to avoid the development of diabetes and circulatory issues that can affect healthy cognitive function.
Limit alcohol consumption
Alcohol affects brain processes and can impair both memory and cognition. Even a single alcoholic drink each day can affect brain function, particularly if an individual is taking medication that can enhance its effects. By limiting yourself to only an occasional drink, you will be ensuring that you are providing the best chance to lower your risk of dementia.
Smoking causes the narrowing of blood vessels throughout the body, including in the brain, which can increase the risk of developing Alzheimer's disease and vascular dementia. If you smoke, find a local smoking cessation program or talk to your doctor about medications that can help you stop. The sooner you curb your smoking habit, the more likely it is you can prevent the damage that can lead to dementia.
Exercise your brain
Dementia is caused by a decline in brain function so keeping your brain active as you age could be another key factor in preventing dementia. Older people who learn a foreign language, take up a new hobby, play cards, do puzzles and engage socially on a regular basis are thought to be less likely to develop dementia, whilst it may also reduce the impact for those already suffering from dementia. This is due to the build-up of healthy brain cells, whilst learning new skills can help to create new brain connections that counteract the effects of ageing. Similarly, social engagement on a regular basis exposes your mind to new ideas, new imagery and new ways of looking at common situations. 'Use it or lose it' is an axiom that has real meaning when it comes to maintaining brain health.
Whilst there are some risks for dementia, such as age and genetics, that can't be changed, individuals have many opportunities to limit their risk by implementing strategies that support physical and intellectual health. If you follow these tips, you could cut your risk of dementia, so you can enjoy your life, whatever your age.
Flexebee offers Dementia Awareness training for groups and individuals, helping learners understand dementia and its effects, as well as how to provide quality dementia care. When caring for somebody suffering from any form of dementia, such as Alzheimer's, caregivers should try their best to create a safe and supportive environment, where possible. We have provided an outline to ensure home safety for dementia sufferers.