“How to prevent dementia?” and “How to prevent Alzheimer’s?” are commonly asked questions among many. Why? They are some of the scariest and most stressful chronic diseases. In 2015, research showed that 46.8 million people worldwide are suffering from dementia, and it is estimated that this figure is going to increase to a shocking 74.7 million in just another 15 years.
Being close to my grandmother, one of the hardest things has been to see her slowly forget who anyone in the family is because of dementia. Even doing the simplest of tasks is proving to be a challenge for her now, and it’s a struggle for both herself and the family to see her cognitive abilities degenerate so rapidly. Seeking a preventive method for dementia has never been more pressing.
If you have a family history of dementia or Alzheimer’s, or are worried about what cognitive decline may do to you as you age, one of the main things you can do is to change your lifestyle habits. Here are 4 golden tips that answer your “How to prevent dementia” question or rather, help in reducing your risk of dementia in your later life:
1. HOW TO PREVENT DEMENTIA: YOUR BODY AND MIND ARE ONE
Firstly, one of the greatest steps to take in order to maintain cognitive health is to have regular exercise. When I mention exercise, what first comes to mind? I’m sure many of you will be thinking (or dreading the thought of) running, aerobic exercises or heading to the gym for a healthy workout. Whether or not you enjoy physical activity, it is widely accepted that regular exercise can have a positive effect on cognitive performance, and some studies have reported enhancements in memory, thinking, and reduced rates or even prevention of dementia, if you will.
Something that most people fail to consider, however, is that exercise should involve not just the body, but also the mind. It is important to understand that in order to maintain a sharp mind, the brain needs to be trained and exercised just as regularly as the human body. Some things that can help are brain-boosters like Sudoku and brain training games that stimulate cognitive skills. As a matter of fact, a preliminary study recently conducted in the US gives hope that computerized brain training software that trained on processing speed, reasoning and memory can actually cut the risk of dementia among a healthy group of seniors by 48 percent!
2. HOW TO PREVENT DEMENTIA: HEART-HEALTHY NUTRITION
Now, if you’re worried about falling into the hands of dementia or Alzheimer’s, it’s time to cut down on the junk food. One great method of creating a ‘brain-healthy’ lifestyle is to give yourself a nutritious diet. There are loads of food out there that has been known to help in reducing cognitive decline. Particularly, a Mediterranean-style diet and Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) have been highly recommended. These diets are high in organic plant-based foods and low in red meat, sugar and saturated fat, and are thought to be highly beneficial in combating heart diseases and reducing your risk of developing dementia. For some healthy recipes, check out Positive Health Wellness!
3. HOW TO PREVENT DEMENTIA: SLEEP AND STRESS MANAGEMENT IS IMPORTANT
We all know that not getting enough shut eye is never good for your mind and body. Lack of sleep has been linked to dementia, heart disease, depression and other worrying ailments. According to research done by Jeffrey Iliff, a neuroscientist at Oregon Health & Science University in Portland, the brain clears out toxins related to Alzheimer’s during sleep. Cut down on sleep, and these toxins could potentially build up and damage the brain.
On top of that, we have to be mindful about how we manage stress. The concept that chronic stress could lead to dementia has gained momentum in recent times. Studies have found that it could even facilitate the jump from mild cognitive impairment (MCI) to full-scale dementia. Similar to the case of lack of sleep, chronic stress and anxiety are associated with deterioration of parts of your brain, which increases the risk of developing neuropsychiatric disorders like dementia and depression. There are various methods that you can find to improve sleep and reduce stress, including meditation and, similar to the above, a good diet and mind-body fitness. Some doctors even recommend puzzle-solving to give you a good rest!
4. HOW TO PREVENT DEMENTIA: EARLY DETECTION IS KEY
Last but not least, something that must be stressed upon is a heightened understanding of dementia, Alzheimer’s and other cognitive-related ailments, and their underlying symptoms. As they say, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Dementia and Alzheimer’s are two major global crises that are growing rapidly. In the absence of a cure for these diseases, we must focus on timely diagnosis, risk reduction and early intervention. By recognising the related symptoms that may arise among ourselves or our loved ones and family members as we age, we can reduce the risk of these diseases and live a long and fulfilling life.