As the population ages, many more people must deal with diminishing cognitive abilities that signal the onset of dementia. More help is available for dementia than ever before in terms of medication, social services and specialized care. Aging is the greatest single risk factor for dementia, but genetics and lifestyle also play a part. The actions you take today to keep your body and mind healthy can pay off in healthy cognition throughout your life.
Eat A Healthy Diet
Health experts recommend a diet rich in leafy, green vegetables, lean meats, fish, nuts, fruits, low-fat dairy products and healthy oils like canola and olive oil. These foods are part of a heart-healthy diet that helps to improve vascular function throughout the body, including the brain. Foods that are rich in antioxidants, such a colorful fruits and vegetables, can be of special help to reduce damage to the brain that can occur over time. Additionally, those that contain omega-3 fatty acids, such as fatty fish and nuts, have a neuroprotective quality that can help to reduce the risk of dementia.
Get Regular Exercise
Add reducing the risk of dementia to the growing list of benefits from regular exercise. Studies show that those who exercise on a regular basis can reduce their risk for Alzheimer's disease by 50 percent. Vigorous exercise of any kind, whether it is walking, bicycling, tennis or workouts at the gym, can improve the function of the circulatory system, improving blood flow and nutrients to the brain. Exercise can even help to slow the progress of dementia in those who have already been diagnosed. If you aren't an active person now, start an exercise regimen today to get this important benefit from regular physical activity.
Manage Your Weight
Another factor that can affect your risk of dementia is obesity. Individuals who are significantly over recommended weight in middle age have an increased risk of developing Alzheimer's and other types of dementia. Obesity puts people at prime risk for type-2 diabetes, which affects blood vessels throughout the body, including the brain. Keeping your weight at recommended levels can help to avoid the development of diabetes, and the circulatory issues that can affect healthy cognitive function.
Limit Alcohol Consumption
Alcohol affects brain processes and can impair both memory and cognition. Even a single alcoholic drink each day can affect brain function, particularly if an individual is taking medication that can enhance its effects. Limit yourself to only an occasional drink, and you will be ensuring that you are providing the best chance to lower the risk of dementia.
Smoking causes the narrowing of blood vessels throughout the body, including in the brain, which can increase the risk for developing Alzheimer's disease and vascular dementia. If you smoke, find a local smoking cessation program or talk to your doctor about medications that can help you stop. The sooner you cease your smoking habit, the more likely it is you can prevent the damage that can lead to dementia.
Exercise Your Brain
Keeping your brain active as you age is another key factoring in preventing dementia. Older people who learn a foreign language, take up a new hobby, play cards, do puzzles and engage socially on a regular basis are less likely to develop dementia. Learning any new skill can help to create new brain connections that counteract the effects of aging. Similarly, social engagement on a regular basis exposes your mind to new ideas, new imagery and new ways of looking at common situations. Use it or lose it is an axiom that has a real meaning for maintaining brain health.
Some risks for dementia, like age and genetics, can't be changed, but individuals have many opportunities to limit their risk by implementing strategies that support physical and intellectual health. If you follow these tips, you can cut your risk for dementia, so you can enjoy your life, whatever your age.
Mental Health and General Training further reading:
Our Dementia course includes all components below...
Understanding Dementia: Course Overview
- Dementia - An Understanding
- Dementia - Types of Dementia
- Dementia - Dealing with Challenging Behaviour
- Dementia - Clinical Guidelines
- Dementia - Interventions of Cognitive and Non-Cognitive
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