As public awareness of dementia grows, more people are keen to find out what they can do to reduce their risk of developing dementia. According to a growing body of evidence there are practical steps we CAN take NOW to reduce our risk, no matter what age we are. Alzheimers Disease International recommends the following five ways that people can reduce their risk. Fortunately, it is never too late to make any of the following changes to our lifestyle.
- What’s good for your heart is good for your brain
Treat blood pressure, especially if in midlife you have high blood pressure – ensure you have it checked, monitored and treated as necessary. Additionally, be aware of any issues with cholesterol, diabetes and obesity, and of course refrain from smoking.
- Physical activity and exercise
Being active is a vital part of well-being. It helps to control blood pressure, increase blood flow to the brain, improve mood, and may even strengthen and renew areas of the brain connected with memory and learning. The ideal exercise programme will combine aerobic exercise with resistance training. People with limited mobility are often still able to exercise from a seated position and many community centres offer exercise programmes such as “Sit and Be Fit”.
- Eat healthy
We all know that food fuels our body and brain. Evidence suggests that a Mediterranean type diet is helpful in reducing the risk of dementia. A Mediterranean diet is high in oily fish, plant based foods, legumes, olive oil and nuts.
- Challenge your brain
Learning something new builds new pathways in the brain, which can help protect against structural changes associated with dementia. It’s never too late to start learning a new language, musical instrument, dance step, or anything that will bring enjoyment and fun to your life.
- Be social
Finding ways to stay positively connected with others is likely to be beneficial to brain health because it is stimulating for the brain. It may also reduce the risk of both depression and dementia.
Growing evidence also indicates that managing stress, getting enough sleep, practicing meditation, having regular dental care and hearing checks, plus volunteering/giving back to one’s community, are all important aspects of brain health that may have protective factors. There will still be people who, despite following all these principles of healthy living, will go on to develop dementia, however, the onset of their cognitive decline may have been delayed.
In short, it is recommended that where possible, combining all these positive key lifestyle habits is the way to achieve maximum benefit for both the brain and the body.
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