Alzheimer’s disease and the resulting dementia are a serious concern because the numbers keep increasing every year. According to The Alzheimer’s Association’s 2017 report, more than 5 million people in America are living with Alzheimer’s and the disease has now become the 6th leading cause of death in the country.
Though dementia is not a disease itself, it is a syndrome that is caused by other diseases or injuries that affect the brain, such as Alzheimer’s disease and stroke. It can be chronic or progressive, characterized by a severe decline in cognitive function. Dementia has three stages, early, middle, and late dementia. The first starts with simple forgetfulness, progresses to forgetting people’s names, and finally to forgetting who their loved ones are and even the ability to walk.
There is no cure or effective treatment for dementia, but there are several ways to prevent it. Here are 5 ways in which you can reduce your risk of developing dementia:
1. Get Optimum Vitamin D
One simple way to reduce the risk of dementia is to make sure you’re on track with your vitamin D intake. Vitamin D is actually a group of secosteroids that act more like hormones which help your intestines to absorb calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorous, and zinc. However, studies have shown that anywhere from 40%-75% of adults are deficient in vitamin D. Seniors who are mildly deficient have a 53% higher risk of dementia, and that number jumps to 125% in those severely deficient. Your body can produce its own vitamin D from the sun, however, this can be difficult due to largely indoor lifestyle. So talk to your doctor or nutritionist about vitamin D supplements. You can also increase your vitamin D intake by having more of these foods:
Cod liver oil
2. Have Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Omega-3 fatty acids are an essential dietary fat that is crucial for early cognitive development in children and learning and memory in adults. It is found in our cell membranes, and higher levels of this fat in our brain cells is thought to improve their communication with other cells in the body. Foods high in Omega-3 fatty acids include:
Oily fish (mackerel, tuna, herring, and salmon)
3. Munch On Leafy Greens
There is no arguing the benefits of eating more greens. When researchers at the Rush University gave adults one serving of leafy green vegetables each day, they found that these adults had the same cognitive function of those 11 years younger than they are in comparison to those who did not eat the vegetables. Green leafy vegetables have high levels of folate, beta carotene, and vitamin K which can boost brain function. Though more research is needed to study the link between the two, there’s no harm in having more greens, right? Here’s a list of greens you can try:
4. Get Proper Sleep
Studies have found that chronic lack of sleep may give the proteins that cause dementia greater access to your brain. Also, a specific lack of deep non-REM (rapid eye movement) sleep may put your brain at an even greater risk for memory loss. Basically, it’s not the quantity of sleep but the quality that matters. Stressful lifestyles and bad eating habits affect the quality of your sleep. The best way to counter this is to be more organized so that you’re less stressed about your work and to reduce having stimulants like coffee and sugar. Practicing meditation has also been found to give good sleep.
5. Decrease Inflammation
People who suffer from inflammation are at a higher risk of dementia. According to a research published in the Neurochemical Research journal, chronic, low-grade inflammation causes changes to our brain structure and is linked to the neurodegenerative changes associated with dementia and Alzheimer’s. Stress, lack of sleep, and poor diet and lifestyle habits are some of the main causes of inflammation. You can combat inflammation to some extent by eating foods with anti-inflammatory properties. These foods include:
Omega-3 fatty acids
Nuts and seeds
Vitamin D rich foods