Dementia, considered a rare disease a couple of decades back, has slowly manifested into one of the most common ailments affecting a larger section of society. Dementia is characterized by a decline in mental ability, severe enough to interfere with daily life.
By leading a healthy lifestyle, one that focuses on eating right, exercising regularly, staying mentally and socially active, getting your sleep patterns right and keeping your stress levels in check, the occurrence and impact of Dementia can be stalled or reversed.
Preventive Steps To Reduce Dementia Risk
According to the Alzheimer’s Research and Prevention Foundation, regular physical exercise can help in preventing dementia. Several case-control studies suggest that increased physical activities, such as participation in sports, exercising and walking during mid-life were associated with a reduced risk of dementia.
Physical activity increases cerebral blood flow and stimulates neuronal growth. It also balances lipid, hormone, and insulin levels and boosts the immune system. Additionally, physical activity is related to reduced risk for hypertension and obesity, two conditions associated with dementia.
To maximize the brain-protecting benefits of your workout
- Aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity exercise each week.
- Moderate levels of weight and resistance training not only increase muscle mass, they help you maintain brain health.
- Balance and coordination exercises such as Yoga, Tai Chi or exercises using balance discs or balance balls could be helpful in the long run to prevent dementia.1
Improving dietary intake may affect dementia prevalence directly, through intake of antioxidant-rich and low-cholesterol foods. And indirectly, through preventing dementia risk factors, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes.
A number of studies suggest that eating certain foods may help keep the brain healthy and that others can be detrimental to cognitive health.
Food tips to keep you protected
- A diet that includes lots of fruits, vegetables and whole grains that’s low in fat and added sugar, can reduce the risk of dementia.
- Consuming foods such as ginger, green tea, fatty fish, soy products, blueberries and other dark berries may protect these important cells from damage.
- Avoid trans fats and saturated fats. These fats can cause inflammation and produce free radicals – both of which are hard on the brain.
- Get plenty of omega-3 fats. Food sources include cold-water fish such as salmon, tuna, trout, mackerel and sardines. You can also supplement with fish oil.
- Maintain consistent levels of insulin and blood sugar. Eat several small meals throughout the day.2
Regularly challenging your brain with mentally stimulating activities through education, occupation or leisure is linked with lower risk of cognitive (memory and thinking skills) decline and dementia. According to studies, people who continue learning new things and challenging their brains are less likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, so it is important to stay mentally active.
Cross-training with these brain-boosting activities will help keep you mentally sharp
- Learn something new. The more it challenges your brain, the more it reduces the risk of dementia at a later stage.
- Practice memorization.
- Brain teasers and strategy games provide a great mental workout and build your capacity to form and retain cognitive associations.3
Get Quality Sleep
People with sleep disorders or those who do not get enough sleep have an increased risk of developing Alzheimer’s and related dementia. Thus, sleep could be a novel therapeutic target for fighting back against dementia in older adults.
Researchers suggest that sleep disruption might be a pathway through which amyloid beta pathology occurs and contributes to memory decline particularly that associated with a part of the brain important for memory (hippocampal dysfunction).
Tips to improve the quality of your sleep
- Get screened for sleep apnea.
- Establish a regular sleep schedule as going to bed and getting up at the same time, reinforces your natural circadian rhythms.
- Avoid napping if insomnia is a problem for you. If you must nap, do it in the early afternoon and limit it to 30 minutes.
- Reserve your bed for sleep and sex and ban television and computers from the bedroom.
- Create a relaxing bedtime ritual.4
Several studies suggest that chronic stress may be a risk factor for cognitive decline and AD, and a small study of older men indicates that traumatic life events at early ages are associated with an increased incidence of AD.
Numerous biological mechanisms support a possible relationship between stress and AD. The sympathetic, neuro-endocrine, and immune systems can over respond to chronic stress, which adversely affects brain function in animals. Elevated levels of cortisol, a hormone with augmented production in response to stress, have increased the risk of cognitive decline in humans.
Get your stress levels in check with these techniques
- Schedule daily relaxation activities.
- Regular meditation, prayer, reflection, and religious practice may immunize you against the damaging effects of stress.
- Make time for leisure activities that bring you joy.5
|↑1||Preventing Alzheimer’s Disease: What Do We Know?, National Institute Of Aging|
|↑2||Bowen DJ, Beresford SAA. 2002. Dietary interventions to prevent disease. Annu. Rev. Public Health 23:255–86|
|↑3||Dementia – reducing your risk, Better Health Channel, Victoria State Government|
|↑4||Update: the role of a good night’s sleep in dementia risk reduction, Alzheimer’s Australia Dementia Research Foundation|
|↑5||Meaney MJ, Aitken DH, van Berkel C, Bhatnagar S, Sapolsky RM. 1988. Effect of neonatal handling on age-related impairments associated with the hippocampus. Science 239:766–68|