Someone who has dementia may have a group of symptoms such as loss of memory, language, and problem-solving that are severe enough to interfere with their daily life. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), “Dementia is a rapidly growing public health problem affecting around 50 million people around the world.” They also predict that by the year 2050, the number of people affected by dementia will triple.
Further, as we age our risk of dementia drastically increases and that’s why it’s so important to recognize the early warning signs of dementia. There is also, unfortunately, no cure for dementia which makes prevention even more important. Follow along as we uncover the top healthy habits everyone should take to reduce your risk of dementia.
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We’ve been told to exercise regularly our entire lives and there’s a reason for that. Researchers have found evidence that links regular exercise to brain health. According to the WHO, “…physically active people seem less likely to develop cognitive decline, all-cause dementia, vascular dementia and Alzheimer disease when compared with inactive people.” Not only is exercise great for reducing your risk of dementia but it’s also good for your heart, blood circulation, weight management, and your mental wellbeing.
The United States Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) states that adults looking for substantial health benefits should aim for 150 to 300-minutes of moderate-intensity or 75 to 150-minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity. Some great examples include swimming and walking. It’s also recommended that older adults focus on balance training as well as aerobic and muscle-strengthening activities.
Older adults with chronic conditions should also be mindful of how their conditions affect their ability to exercise which is important to ensure they are exercising safely. Here are some Exercise Tips for People with Low Mobility.
Get Adequate Sleep
A good night’s rest is important for everyone but did you know your quality of sleep may be linked to dementia? According to the Sleep Foundation, studies have highlighted the importance of your quality of sleep for flushing out toxins in the brain. Poor sleep can also be linked to higher levels of beta-amyloid in the brain which is a protein that disrupts deep sleep which is necessary for memory formation.
A good night’s rest can lead to a better mood, a clearer mind, and may help prevent the risk of developing symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease. Adults ages 26 to 64 should aim for 7 to 9-hours of sleep while older adults (age 65 and older) should aim to get seven to eight hours of sleep. Some great ways to improve your quality of sleep are to establish a regular sleep schedule and wind down before bed such as taking a hot bath, light stretching, dimming the lights, or listening to relaxing music.
Eat a Healthy, Balanced Diet
Eating a balanced diet is also extremely important to leading a healthy lifestyle. A balanced diet can do wonders for reducing the risk of dementia. The WHO specifically calls out the Mediterranean diet. Studies have shown that this diet has a protective effect on brain health and is connected with a decreased rate of cognitive decline which may reduce your risk of dementia.
For those that don’t know, the Mediterranean diet is rich in fish, vegetables, whole grains, legume, and healthy fats such as olive oil. The diet also recommends consuming dairy in moderation, avoiding processed foods altogether, cutting out sugar, and encourages drinking wine (in moderation, of course).
In addition to diet, you should also be mindful of your alcohol consumption. According to the WHO, there is extensive evidence that states excessive alcohol consumption puts you at risk for dementia and cognitive decline. The Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion (ODPHP) defines moderate drinking as one drink per day for women and up to two drinks a day for men.
If you drink more alcohol than what is recommended there are a few tips you can try to cut down on your consumption. For starters try setting yourself a limit so you can easily keep track of how much you’re drinking. You may also want to try drinking alcohol-free drinks and mocktails, and you can find a friend or family member to keep you accountable.
Social interactions are so important because they force you to get out, carry on a conversation, and force your brain to stay active. Not only is socializing important to help reduce the risk of dementia but it can be great for patients with dementia too.
Cognitive decline can make older adults feel isolated, depressed, and lonely, and ensuring you keep a healthy social life can all work to prevent that. In contrast, those who experience social isolation are at a greater risk for developing depression, high blood pressure, and coronary heart disease, all of which are bad for your brain. Some great ways to stay social as you get older is to schedule game nights with friends, afternoon tea, or even a phone call to a family member. (Here are some more Brain Boosting Activities to Help Prevent Alzheimer’s).
Everyone has experienced some type of stress in their life but chronic stress can have severe effects on you mentally, physically, and emotionally. Chronic stress is also linked to dementia because it can take a big toll on the brain. For starters, stress can affect your immune system which plays an important role in the development of dementia.
Further, when you’re stressed, your body will release a stress hormone called cortisol which has been linked to issues with memory. Stress also has ties to depression and anxiety which may also increase your risk of dementia. Even though there isn’t concrete evidence that proves stress will directly cause dementia, the toll it takes on your body is enough to realize that you really need to learn how to manage stress. Some great ways to start managing stress is to start with taking deep breaths, engage in relaxing activities daily, and finally, be sure to make fun a priority.
It’s no secret that smoking is incredibly unhealthy, but did you know it could also increase your risk of dementia? Smoking is harmful to your blood circulation and limits the amount of blood that flows to vital organs such as the brain, heart, and lungs. One study even found that people who smoked over the age of 65 had an 80-percent higher risk of Alzheimer’s compared to those who have never smoked.
Not only does smoking put you at a higher risk for dementia but it can also put you at risk for heart disease, and cancer. The good news is that when you quit smoking, your brain benefits from improved circulation immediately and your risk for dementia drops to nearly the same level as someone who has never smoked.
Manage Blood Pressure
Hypertension (also known as high blood pressure) is a lot more common than you may think and those who have it are at a greater risk for developing dementia. According to the American Heart Association, high blood pressure includes a reading that is 140 (or higher) over 90 (or higher).
High blood pressure causes harm to the body because it increases the workload of the heart and blood vessels. And this is linked to dementia because hypertension can damage tiny blood vessels in the part of the brain that is responsible for memory and cognition. As you can see, keeping your blood pressure in check is of the utmost importance if you want to reduce your risk of dementia.
Almost half of the adult population in the United States have high blood pressure. Even though it is very common, there are many ways you can improve hypertension. Some simple lifestyle changes can have a big impact on your blood pressure. You can start by changing our diet to include more wholesome foods, maintain a healthy weight, and engage in regular physical activity. (Here are some more Ways to Prevent High Blood Pressure).
Keep Your Mind Active
Keeping your mind active is just as important as staying physically active. Mental stimulation will help keep your brain in shape, and in turn, may help prevent memory loss. The best thing you can do is find something that challenges your brain and then do it regularly.
Some great ways to keep your brain in shape are puzzles, crosswords, or quizzes. These activities will force you to think and keep your brain working hard. Other great ideas include learning a new language, playing cards or board games, and reading books. (Here are some more Tips on How Seniors Can Boost Brain Health).