8 Ways To Reduce the Risk of Dementia
The belief that you’re at risk of dementia as you get older is incorrect. While our cognitive functions do decline by some level as we age, it doesn’t automatically mean that we will have dementia.
Dementia is not a disease per se. It’s the general term for conditions and diseases caused by abnormal changes in the brain. Diseases that fall under dementia include Alzheimer’s and vascular dementia. These conditions are characterized by symptoms like short-term memory issues, getting confused about times and places, behavior or personality changes, and depression.
There are about 50 million people in the world with dementia, with five to eight percent of the world’s population over 60 are afflicted. Aside from age, there are other factors that increase a person’s risk of having dementia. Gender, ethnicity, genetics, medical condition, and lifestyle also play a part.
Unfortunately, there’s no treatment for curing dementia or for stopping its progression. However, studies have determined that making several positive changes to one’s lifestyle can reduce the risk of dementia and cognitive decline.
Here are eight ways to safeguard your mind and cut down the risk of Alzheimer’s and dementia.
1. Remain Physically Active
Being active is one of the best ways to lower the risk of dementia. You don’t have to train for a marathon or spend hours at the gym to do this. Exercising for at least 30 minutes, five times a week is enough, even for those over the age of 65.
Choose an activity that will get your heart rate up and make you a little sweaty. Swimming, dancing, cycling, and brisk walking are sensible options. Sports like football and running are good aerobic activities while also helping build resistance. For those who are physically limited, gardening or a 30-minute walk is enough.
2. Challenge Your Mind
Keeping your mind active is another great way to lower the odds of developing dementia. Regular mental activity will boost your brain’s capability and help it cope with any disease. It can also put off dementia symptoms by years.
There are many benefits to exercising your brain. For one, you’ll improve at certain tasks. It can also help enhance your focus. And finding ways to challenge your mind is easier these days.
Puzzles like the crossword, Sudoku, or word searches can help. The same goes for playing a card game, reading novels, or writing letters. Painting, learning a new language, or enrolling in a short course not only keeps your brain engaged, but you can also even meet new people and enjoy new experiences.
3. Be Mindful of Your Diet
A healthy and balanced diet can also stave off dementia, and certain diets, like MIND, have been shown to help. This diet was developed specifically to prevent the loss of brain function as one age.
The Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay (MIND) diet utilizes components of the Mediterranean diet, and the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet. Specialists consider the two as being the healthiest diets. They can reduce the risk of developing diabetes and heart disease and lower blood pressure.
The MIND diet encourages people to eat:
- Six or more servings of green leafy vegetables a week.
- Berries twice a week.
- Five or more servings of nuts per week.
- Use olive oil for cooking.
- A minimum of three servings of whole grains every day.
- A serving of fatty fish (ex. salmon, sardines, tuna) at least once a week.
- A poultry dish at least twice a week. However, fried chicken is discouraged.
4. Ditch the Cigarette
There are so many reasons to quit smoking, and dementia is one of them. A World Health Organization report revealed that smokers have a 45% risk of having dementia. Studies also indicate that quitting the habit can reduce the odds of having the condition. It will also help bring the risk down to the same level as those who don’t smoke.
So regardless of your age or how long you’ve been smoking, quitting now is a good move. Trying to quit cold turkey is challenging, though, so consider asking your doctor for advice. You can also look for advisers who specialize in helping people ditch the habit.
5. Avoid Alcohol
While keeping away from alcohol is ideal, there’s also nothing wrong with indulging in a glass of wine or two. It’s best to imbibe within the recommended levels, which is a maximum of 14 units a week. This is equivalent to seven pints of beer or five large glasses of wine.
There are several ways to help you cut down on your alcohol intake. For instance, you can use smaller glasses or choose drinks with low alcohol content. You can also choose just to drink while eating dinner.
6. Stay in Touch with Your Friends
More experts now believe that staying in touch with friends and engaging in social activities also keep your brain healthy. It makes sense that having a strong and supportive network helps. Staying socially active and engaged will make you less vulnerable to depression. You also learn to become more resilient.
Make an effort to stay in touch with your family and friends. Schedule visits. Volunteer to look after the young ones. Travel at least once a year. You should also consider joining an activity or social club or a church group.
7. Make Sure You Get Good Quality Sleep
Getting eight hours or more of good quality sleep will help keep your mind and body healthy. Research has shown that insomnia and other sleep disorders can make you more vulnerable to Alzheimer’s as well as putting you at risk for numerous health issues, like increased cortisol levels and stress.
8. Talk to a Professional about Depression
Depression is one symptom that manifests in the early stages of dementia. People with a history of depression and anxiety have also been found to be at more risk of developing this condition. Research has indicated that people who manage their depression will have an easier time coping with the changes that dementia brings.
Talking to a professional will do wonders in helping you understand and deal with depression. Your doctor can also prescribe medication or recommend physical activities that will help ease symptoms.
The idea of having dementia or watching a loved one suffering from it is daunting. While there’s no definite treatment, changing your lifestyle will go a long way in helping reduce the risk of dementia.