Most of us believe dementia is an old people’s disease. But it isn’t really. Though commonly found in people over 65 years old, it can be delayed and prevented. The lifestyle you follow for most of your life can set up a stage for dementia. In fact, your current lifestyle could contribute to 76% of cognitive decline in the future.1
Dementia is a gradual deterioration of brain cells. It leads to memory loss, language difficulty, and affects the ability to think. The risk of getting dementia increases when you get older.
Here’s another interesting fact, the Alzheimer’s Society found out that 22% of people believed they couldn’t reduce the risk of dementia.2 This is the truth: there are a lot of things you could do to delay and maybe even prevent dementia. The sooner you begin to make cautious choices, the better it is for your brain and body.
This is everything you need to know about preventing dementia.
1. Make Changes To Your Diet
If you cannot stop your affair with burgers and pizzas, here’s news for you. What you eat is one of the biggest contributors to brain health. In fact, one study found out that a diet rich in high fat and high calorie had a strong link to Alzheimer’s.3 And it doesn’t stop there. Another study revealed people who ate unhealthy levels of saturated fats (found in red meat) doubled their chance of getting dementia compared to people who ate lesser amounts.4
Obesity has also been linked to an increased risk of dementia.5 This is because being overweight shoots up your blood pressure and this, in turn, could increase cognitive decline. Here’s what you need to do.
Load Up On Vitamins
Vitamins play an important role in brain health and development. Here are the special ones to prevent dementia.
Vitamin B: A few researchers claim adding more of B3 in your diet can delay the onset of dementia.6 You can find it in meats, coffee, tea, and legumes. B12 deficiency (aka folate) was also found to increase chances of memory loss and confusion.78 You can find it in shellfish, mackerel, Swiss cheese, and eggs. If you’re vegan, fortified cereals and soy products are good choices.
You could begin your morning with fortified cereals or eggs. If you need your coffee, 3 – 4 cups a day have been found to good for the brain.9 If you’re a tea person, one cup a day has been proven to help prevent dementia.10 Also try to stick green tea, black tea or oolong.
Vitamin K: If you are relying on multivitamin tablets to get your dose of vitamins, you might want to reconsider. Vitamin K aka “the anti-aging” nutrient isn’t found in a typical multivitamin bottle. A study found out people who were diagnosed with early-stage Alzheimer’s were low on this particular vitamin.1112
Green leafy vegetables like spinach, kale, broccoli, cabbage, and collards are excellent choices. Make sure to have at least one cup of veggies (whichever way you prefer) every day.
Vitamin D: Experts are claiming there is a link between low levels of the sunshine vitamin and developing dementia.13 Vitamin D acts as a catalyst to produce important chemicals in the brain and stimulates the cells. This could help protect the brain.
Mackerel, salmon, tuna, fortified almond milk and soymilk, and mushrooms are great options.
Iron: A deficiency in iron could lead to a gradual destruction of brain cells and progressive dementia.14 Pump up your iron from beans, red meat, and dark leafy greens. But don’t over do it. One research found out too much iron could also increase dementia risk.15
Get your iron from pumpkin seeds, beans, pulses, and whole grains.
If you are into juicing, here’s some good news. Drinking fruit and vegetable juices at least three times a week decreases your chance of Alzheimer’s by 76%.16 This is an easy and quick way to get all those necessary vitamins into your body.
Brain-boosting Juice Recipe
- 3 carrots
- 1 apple
- Handful of spinach leaves
- ½ of medium sized beetroot
- Make sure all the ingredients are unpeeled and cut into pieces. Mix everything together in a blender.
- You can add water as per your requirement.
- Strain it and add ice to your juice.
Adopt A Mediterranean Diet
The Mediterranean diet has gained so much attention in the past few years and all for the right reasons. Studies prove that people who follow the diet are at a much lower risk of any cognitive decline.1718 The trick is to avoid red meats and dairy. You can tilt your diet to the Mediterranean side by focusing on olive oil, legumes, whole grains, chicken, plenty of fish, and seasoning your food with spices.
Check Your Sugar And Salt Intake
No surprises here. Too much of sugar or salt can shoot up your blood sugar levels and blood pressure. This could damage your brain cells. In fact, Alzheimer’s has been nicknamed as “diabetes of the brain.” This is because diabetes could lead to changes in the brain, including a reduction in gray matter.19
Excessive salt in your diet could also lead to changes in the brain. Too much sodium coupled with a sedentary lifestyle could result in a much greater risk for cognitive decline.20
Sprinkle Spices In Your Diet
Have your food with cinnamon, turmeric, and sage. These spices are helpful to reduce inflammation and improve memory.2122Turmeric has been found to prevent plaque buildup which could lead to problems in proper brain functioning.23
Add Fish To Your Diet
That’s right. An interesting study found out you could reduce the risk of dementia just by eating fish once a week.24 This is because omega-3 fatty acid (found in cold water fish like salmon and tuna) can protect your brain cells from damage.
If you can’t have fish, nuts are another option to load up on omega-3 fatty acids. One study revealed people who ate a lot of veggies and nuts had dipped their Alzheimer’s risk by 70%.25
Eat Heart Healthy Foods
[pullquote]“What’s good for your heart is good for your head,” says the Alzheimer Society.[/pullquote]
Eat foods that will help keep your cholesterol in check and control blood pressure. This should help prevent damage to brain cells and you are safe from heart diseases as well. Anything that could potentially hurt your blood vessels can do the same for the vessels in your brain. This could cause vascular dementia (a condition where brain cells deteriorate from an inadequate supply of blood).26 One study revealed that people who had cardiovascular diseases were at an added risk of getting dementia.27
Regulate Red Meat Consumption
Western diets are known for being high in fat and rich in red meat. This sort of diet can increase the risk of Alzheimer’s. Because high meat consumption can lead to insulin resistance and this could gradually make way to Alzheimer’s.28
Do not eat red meat more than thrice a week. Make sure to stick to 3 ounces per meal and choose lean cuts. Red meat includes pork, lamb, beef, and goat. Also, try not to make meat the highlight of your dish. Treat meat as a spice to your dish. Try steaming and stewing the meat for a healthier option. Avoid processed meats like bacon, sausages, salami, and beef jerky.29
Remember, the sooner you start fixing your diet, the better for your brain!
2. Include Mentally Stimulating Activities
Just like any other part of the body, your brain needs exercise to be fit. The brain craves for mental stimulation. One study found out that people who had mentally stimulating jobs had a much lower risk of developing dementia. It helped to grow more brain cells.30
Things You Need To Do:
Always Learn Something New: Learning a new language is a great way to stimulate the brain. Shifting between languages is like a workout for the brain. Your brain also needs to accommodate space for new vocabulary. Studies have pointed out being bilingual or multilingual can delay the onset of Alzheimer’s by at least four years.31
Pick Up A Musical Instrument: Playing an instrument involves several areas of the brain. Not only are you increasing your memory capacity and processing skills, but you help protect brain cells for a long time.32
Practice Your Memory Skills: Memory improves with practice.33 You can begin by trying to recall license plates or telephone numbers.
Play Puzzles And Crosswords: Stimulate your brain cells with brain teasers. Riddles, puzzles, sudoku, board games and the like are wonderful to build patterns and cognitive associations.34
Try Doing Math In Your Head: The next time you split a bill with a friend, don’t reach out to a calculator. Math is great for your brain!35 You can begin by doing small calculations in your head.
Play Video Games: If you can’t get yourself to do crosswords or puzzles, video games should do the trick. One study revealed people over 50 who played video games for ten hours had better cognitive functioning than others who didn’t.36
Meditation: Anything that improves your concentration levels is great for the brain. Meditation is one way to up your concentration game and increase gray matter. A 2013 study reveals meditation can also increase protective tissue in the brain. It also suggests just by doing yoga and meditation for at least two hours a week can delay the onset of Alzheimer’s.37
3. Exercise Regularly
Even if genetics isn’t on your side and you have a dementia risk, a study found out that if you are physically active, you could reduce your chance of getting dementia. Regular exercise can help protect brain cells and build new ones as well.38
Another reason is that exercise helps retain the size of your hippocampus (the region responsible for memory and learning).39 The hippocampus is usually the first part of the brain to shrink as a reaction from Alzheimer’s.40
Things You Need To Do:
- Exercise 3 – 5 times a week for at least 30 minutes (an hour is even greater). Remember, it’s never too late to start exercising. Cardio and strength training are promising ways to prevent cognitive decline.41
- Walking improves cognitive function. A study revealed women who walked at least 1.5 hours a week had lower chances of dementia.42 So, walk whenever you can!
- If you are a senior, walking briskly, yoga, dancing, swimming, gardening, chair stands, bicep curls, and stationary cycling are great options.
- Playing any form of sports is good. But make sure to protect your head! Head trauma is another cause of dementia.
4. Ace The Right Amount Of Sleep
If you aren’t taking those well needed hours of sleep, you are setting yourself up for Alzheimer’s. But that’s not all. Even sleeping for more than 9 hours daily can increase your chance of dementia. The quality of your sleep is also important to maintain brain health.43
Aim for 6-8 hours of deep sleep every night.
5. Laugh More Often
It’s not just good for your mood, but laughter and being happy in general are great for brain health.44It acts as a shield from brain damage. It reduces chances of heart diseases, anxiety, blood sugar, and boosts the immune system – all great for the brain!
6. Form Social Connections
The next time you cancel meeting up your friends, remember, maintaining strong healthy relationships is important for the brain. Regular social interactions stimulate brain cells and offer protection to the brain.45
7. Be Aware Of The Symptoms
If you are aware of the symptoms of dementia, it would help you to recognize them in other people. Early diagnosis is always helpful. This, in turn, could be used to find the exact cause of dementia and some causes are reversible. Sometimes dementia could occur from vitamin deficiencies, a tumor, or even as a response from certain medications. Two of the main causes under this category are from vitamin B12 and an underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism).
8. Avoid Drinking, Smoking, And Stress
Alcohol: Drinking too much of alcohol is a known risk factor for dementia. Long-term heavy consumption could lead to brain impairment, this is known as alcohol-related dementia. On the other hand, one study pointed out a moderate amount can lower your rate of dementia.46
Smoking: Here’s another reason to quit smoking. When you smoke, you are gradually allowing the arteries in your heart to narrow down. This increases blood pressure and the chance of dementia, along with cancer and heart disease.47
Stress: Several studies reveal there is a strong link between stress and dementia. Highly anxious people shoot up the risk of Alzheimer’s by 135% and moderate anxiety can result in 78% increase. Even mild anxiety raises the risk by 33%.48
Midlife Personality: One interesting research found out people who were neurotic during their midlife heightened the chance of getting Alzheimer’s.49 Being jealous, moody, and distressed, does increase the risk.
So, get on board the program. Tweak your lifestyle and diet to keep your brain healthy. Not only are you reducing the risk of dementia but also of heart disease, diabetes, and obesity. Here’s to a healthy dementia-free life!
|↑1||Lifestyle linked to changes in brain ageing. Age UK|
|↑2||Toolkit will help GPs make prompt diagnosis in dementia patients. Rcni|
|↑3||Grant, William B. “Dietary links to Alzheimer’s disease: 1999 update.” Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease 1, no. 4, 5 (1999): 197-201|
|↑4||Morris, Martha Clare. “Diet and Alzheimer’s disease: what the evidence shows.” Medscape General Medicine 6, no. 1 (2004): 48|
|↑5||Xu, W. L., A. R. Atti, M. Gatz, N. L. Pedersen, B. Johansson, and L. Fratiglioni. “Midlife overweight and obesity increase late-life dementia risk A population-based twin study.” Neurology 76, no. 18 (2011): 1568-1574|
|↑6||Morris, Martha C., Denis A. Evans, Julia L. Bienias, Paul A. Scherr, Christine C. Tangney, Liesi E. Hebert, D. A. Bennett, Robert S. Wilson, and Neelam Aggarwal. “Dietary niacin and the risk of incident Alzheimer’s disease and of cognitive decline.” Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery & Psychiatry 75, no. 8 (2004): 1093-1099|
|↑7||Wang, Hui-Xin, Å. Wahlin, H. Basun, J. Fastbom, B. Winblad, and L. Fratiglioni. “Vitamin B12 and folate in relation to the development of Alzheimer’s disease.” Neurology 56, no. 9 (2001): 1188-1194.|
|↑8||Goebels, Norbert, and Michael Soyka. “Dementia associated with vitamin B12 deficiency: presentation of two cases and review of the literature.” The Journal of neuropsychiatry and clinical neurosciences 12, no. 3 (2000): 389-394|
|↑9||Eskelinen, Marjo H., Tiia Ngandu, Jaakko Tuomilehto, Hilkka Soininen, and Miia Kivipelto. “Midlife coffee and tea drinking and the risk of late-life dementia: a population-based CAIDE study.” Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease 16, no. 1 (2009): 85-91|
|↑10||Daily consumption of tea protects the elderly from cognitive decline. NSU News|
|↑11||Presse, Nancy, Bryna Shatenstein, Marie-Jeanne Kergoat, and Guylaine Ferland. “Low vitamin K intakes in community-dwelling elders at an early stage of Alzheimer’s disease.” Journal of the American Dietetic Association 108, no. 12 (2008): 2095-2099|
|↑12||Allison, A. C. “The possible role of vitamin K deficiency in the pathogenesis of Alzheimer’s disease and in augmenting brain damage associated with cardiovascular disease.” Medical hypotheses 57, no. 2 (2001): 151-155|
|↑13||Littlejohns, T. J., K. Kos, W. E. Henley, E. Kuźma, and D. J. Llewellyn. “Vitamin D and dementia.” J Prev Alz Dis 3, no. 1 (2016): 1-43|
|↑14||Chung, Shiu-Dong, Jau-Jiuan Sheu, Li-Ting Kao, Herng-Ching Lin, and Jiunn-Horng Kang. “Dementia is associated with iron-deficiency anemia in females: A population-based study.” Journal of the neurological sciences 346, no. 1 (2014): 90-93|
|↑15||Duce, James A., Andrew Tsatsanis, Michael A. Cater, Simon A. James, Elysia Robb, Krutika Wikhe, Su Ling Leong et al. “Iron-export ferroxidase activity of β-amyloid precursor protein is inhibited by zinc in Alzheimer’s disease.” Cell 142, no. 6 (2010): 857-867|
|↑16||Dai, Qi, Amy R. Borenstein, Yougui Wu, James C. Jackson, and Eric B. Larson. “Fruit and vegetable juices and Alzheimer’s disease: the Kame Project.” The American journal of medicine 119, no. 9 (2006): 751-759|
|↑17||Lourida, Ilianna, Maya Soni, Joanna Thompson-Coon, Nitin Purandare, Iain A. Lang, Obioha C. Ukoumunne, and David J. Llewellyn. “Mediterranean diet, cognitive function, and dementia: a systematic review.” Epidemiology 24, no. 4 (2013): 479-489.|
|↑18||Safouris, Apostolos, Georgios Tsivgoulis, Theodoros N Sergentanis, and Theodora Psaltopoulou. “Mediterranean diet and risk of dementia.” Current Alzheimer Research 12, no. 8 (2015): 736-744|
|↑19||Chung CC, Pimentel D, Jor’dan AJ, et al. Inflammation-associated declines in cerebral vasoreactivity and cognition in type 2 diabetes. Neurology. 2015 Jul 8|
|↑20||Fiocco, Alexandra J., Bryna Shatenstein, Guylaine Ferland, Hélène Payette, Sylvie Belleville, Marie-Jeanne Kergoat, José A. Morais, and Carol E. Greenwood. “Sodium intake and physical activity impact cognitive maintenance in older adults: the NuAge Study.” Neurobiology of aging 33, no. 4 (2012): 829-e21|
|↑21||Modi, Khushbu K., Suresh B. Rangasamy, Sridevi Dasarathi, Avik Roy, and Kalipada Pahan. “Cinnamon Converts Poor Learning Mice to Good Learners: Implications for Memory Improvement.” Journal of Neuroimmune Pharmacology 11, no. 4 (2016): 693-707|
|↑22||Scholey, Andrew B., Nicola TJ Tildesley, Clive G. Ballard, Keith A. Wesnes, Andrea Tasker, Elaine K. Perry, and David O. Kennedy. “An extract of Salvia (sage) with anticholinesterase properties improves memory and attention in healthy older volunteers.” Psychopharmacology 198, no. 1 (2008): 127-139.|
|↑23||Zhang, Can, Andrew Browne, Daniel Child, and Rudolph E. Tanzi. “Curcumin decreases amyloid-β peptide levels by attenuating the maturation of amyloid-β precursor protein.” Journal of Biological Chemistry 285, no. 37 (2010): 28472-28480|
|↑24||Morris, Martha Clare, John Brockman, Julie A. Schneider, Yamin Wang, David A. Bennett, Christy C. Tangney, and Ondine van de Rest. “Association of seafood consumption, brain mercury level, and APOE ε4 status with brain neuropathology in older adults.” Jama 315, no. 5 (2016).|
|↑25||Loef, M., and Harald Walach. “Fruit, vegetables and prevention of cognitive decline or dementia: a systematic review of cohort studies.” The journal of nutrition, health & aging 16, no. 7 (2012): 626-630.|
|↑26||Ng, Justin B., M. Turek, and A. M. Hakim. “Heart disease as a risk factor for dementia.” Clin Epidemiol 5 (2013): 135-45|
|↑27||Paciaroni, Maurizio, and Julien Bogousslavsky. “Connecting cardiovascular disease and dementia: further evidence.” (2013): e000656|
|↑28, ↑29||Alzheimer’s Diet: Will Limiting Red Meat Help Stave Off Alzheimer’s? Tufts University|
|↑30||Smyth, K. A., T. Fritsch, T. B. Cook, M. J. McClendon, C. E. Santillan, and R. P. Friedland. “Worker functions and traits associated with occupations and the development of AD.” Neurology 63, no. 3 (2004): 498-503|
|↑31||Woumans, Evy, Patrick Santens, Anne Sieben, Jan Versijpt, Michael Stevens, and Wouter Duyck. “Bilingualism delays clinical manifestation of Alzheimer’s disease.” Bilingualism: Language and Cognition 18, no. 03 (2015): 568-574|
|↑32||Stewart, Lauren, Rik Henson, Knut Kampe, Vincent Walsh, Robert Turner, and Uta Frith. “Brain changes after learning to read and play music.” Neuroimage 20, no. 1 (2003): 71-83.|
|↑33||Tigner, Robert B. “Putting memory research to good use: Hints from cognitive psychology.” College Teaching 47, no. 4 (1999): 149-152|
|↑34||Pillai, Jagan A., Charles B. Hall, Dennis W. Dickson, Herman Buschke, Richard B. Lipton, and Joe Verghese. “Association of crossword puzzle participation with memory decline in persons who develop dementia.” Journal of the International Neuropsychological Society 17, no. 06 (2011): 1006-1013|
|↑35||Can brain stimulation aid memory and brain health? Harvard Health Publications.|
|↑36||Zelinski, Elizabeth M., and Ricardo Reyes. “Cognitive benefits of computer games for older adults.” Gerontechnology: international journal on the fundamental aspects of technology to serve the ageing society 8, no. 4 (2009): 220|
|↑37||Luders, Eileen, Nicolas Cherbuin, and Christian Gaser. “Estimating brain age using high-resolution pattern recognition: Younger brains in long-term meditation practitioners.” NeuroImage 134 (2016): 508-513|
|↑38||Van Gelder BM, Tijhuis AR, Kalmijn S, Giampaoli S, Nissinen A, and Kromhout D. Physical activity in relation to cognitive decline in elderly men. Neurology 2004;63:2316-2321|
|↑39||Sayal, Natasha. “Exercise training increases size of hippocampus and improves memory PNAS (2011) vol. 108| no. 7| 3017–3022.” Annals of neurosciences 22, no. 2 (2015): 107|
|↑40||Eckerström, Carl, Ulf Andreasson, Erik Olsson, Sindre Rolstad, Kaj Blennow, Henrik Zetterberg, Helge Malmgren, Åke Edman, and Anders Wallin. “Combination of hippocampal volume and cerebrospinal fluid biomarkers improves predictive value in mild cognitive impairment.” Dementia and geriatric cognitive disorders 29, no. 4 (2010): 294-300|
|↑41||Balsamo, Sandor, Jeffrey Willardson, Frederico Santos de Santana, Jonato Prestes, Denise Coscrato Balsamo, Dahan da Cunha Nascimento, Leopoldo dos Santos-Neto, and Octavio T. Nobrega. “Effectiveness of exercise on cognitive impairment and Alzheimer’s disease.” International journal of general medicine (2013): 387|
|↑42||Tanne, Janice Hopkins. “Walking protects elderly people from dementia, studies show.” BMJ: British Medical Journal 329, no. 7469 (2004): 761|
|↑43||Spira, Adam P., Lenis P. Chen-Edinboro, Mark N. Wu, and Kristine Yaffe. “Impact of sleep on the risk of cognitive decline and dementia.” Current opinion in psychiatry 27, no. 6 (2014): 478.|
|↑44||Bennett, Mary Payne, and Cecile A. Lengacher. “Humor and laughter may influence health. I. History and background.” Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine 3, no. 1 (2006): 61-63|
|↑45||Pillai, Jagan A., and Joe Verghese. “Social networks and their role in preventing dementia.” Indian journal of psychiatry 51, no. 5 (2009): 22|
|↑46||Peters, Ruth, Jean Peters, James Warner, Nigel Beckett, and Christopher Bulpitt. “Alcohol, dementia and cognitive decline in the elderly: a systematic review.” Age and ageing 37, no. 5 (2008): 505-512|
|↑47||Zhong, Guochao, Yi Wang, Yong Zhang, Jeff Jianfei Guo, and Yong Zhao. “Smoking is associated with an increased risk of dementia: a meta-analysis of prospective cohort studies with investigation of potential effect modifiers.” PLoS One 10, no. 3 (2015): e0118333|
|↑48||Mah, Linda, Malcolm A. Binns, David C. Steffens, and Alzheimer’s Disease Neuroimaging Initiative. “Anxiety symptoms in amnestic mild cognitive impairment are associated with medial temporal atrophy and predict conversion to Alzheimer disease.” The American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry 23, no. 5 (2015): 466-476|
|↑49||Johansson, Lena, Xinxin Guo, Paul R. Duberstein, Tore Hällström, Margda Waern, Svante Östling, and Ingmar Skoog. “Midlife personality and risk of Alzheimer disease and distress A 38-year follow-up.” Neurology 83, no. 17 (2014): 1538-1544|