Dementia is an overall term for diseases and conditions characterized by a decline in memory, language, problem-solving and other thinking skills that affect a person's ability to perform everyday activities. Many dementias are progressive, meaning symptoms start out slowly and gradually get worse.
Research reported at the 2019 Alzheimer’s Association International Conference suggests that adopting multiple healthy lifestyle choices, including healthy diet, not smoking, regular exercise and cognitive stimulation, may decrease the risk of cognitive decline and dementia. Here are some easy steps you can take to reduce your risk of developing dementia.
1. Get enough sleep
Research affirms that when older people sleep poorly it can prevent them from “storing” memories and lead to dementia symptoms. Sleep deprivation can change your mood, decrease your reaction time, and make you more prone to simple mistakes, and over time, sleep disturbances can increase your risk of developing dementia.
2. Limit alcohol consumption
A study shows that alcohol abuse is the second leading cause of adult dementia in western countries, accounting for 10% of cases. Men who consume six drinks a day and women who have four drinks per day place themselves at a high risk (more than 10% chance) of developing dementia.
3. Reduce stress, exercise regularly
The Alzheimer’s Association says that “experts are not certain about the reason for the association of an active social life with decreased dementia risk. It may be due to direct mechanisms through which social and mental stimulation protect the brain.” An active social life is not only linked to longevity, happiness,and good health, but also associated with a lower risk of developing dementia.
4. Lead a heart-healthy lifestyle
A heart-healthy lifestyle lowers your risk of developing dementia, particularly vascular dementia. Vascular dementia can be caused by high blood pressure and heart disease. Quit smoking, eat a balanced diet and exercise regularly to take care of your heart, and avoid heart disease.
5. Work your brain
Physical activity is definitely important for a healthy body, but you also need a healthy mind to reduce your risk of developing dementia. So, keep yourself busy, exercise your brain. Play games, solve crosswords, sudoku, or any sort of puzzle that you like. Keeping your brain active goes a long way in keeping your mind and body healthy.
6. Prevent head injuries
There appears to be a strong link between future risk of dementia and serious head trauma, especially when injuries cause loss of consciousness. Falls are a major cause of head injuries. If you or a loved one have limited mobility or vision problems, be extra careful to make sure that the home is safe and without fall-hazards. To minimize your risk of head injury, always wear a seat belt when driving and a helmet when cycling or engaging in sports.
If you or someone you know is experiencing memory difficulties or other changes in thinking skills, don't ignore them. See a doctor soon to determine the cause. Professional evaluation may detect a treatable condition. And even if symptoms suggest dementia, early diagnosis allows a person to get the maximum benefit from available treatments and provides an opportunity to volunteer for clinical trials or studies. It also provides time to plan for the future.
Living with dementia or being a caregiver for someone with dementia can be challenging. At in4MED, we can make this stressful time easier by connecting you to local support systems and being there for you as your trusted health advocates. As always, feel free to connect with me or leave a comment.
Healthcare Consultant, in4MED
The author of this blog post is a Physician with over 10 years of experience working in the healthcare system as a clinician, researcher and educator. She is passionate about healthcare for older adults and strives to be a resourceful inspiration to caregivers.
*No content on this site, regardless of date, should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified healthcare professional.