5 ways to help reduce your risk of dementia

A post for World Alzheimer’s Month


About Dementia

Dementia is the collective name given for progressive degenerative brain syndromes which affect memory, thinking, behaviour and emotion.

Alzheimer’s disease and vascular dementia are the most common types of dementia, responsible for up to 90% of cases of dementia. Symptoms may include:

  • Loss of memory
  • Difficulty in finding the right words or understanding what people are saying
  • Difficulty in performing previously routine tasks
  • Personality and mood changes

Dementia knows no socio-economic or geographical boundaries. Although each person will experience dementia in their own way, eventually those affected are unable to care for themselves and need help with all aspects of daily life. There is currently no cure for most types of dementia, but treatments, advice, and support are available. September is World Alzheimer’s Month! #WorldAlzMonth

Every 3 seconds, someone in the world develops dementia. The number of people living with dementia around the world is expected to almost double every 20 years, reaching 152 million by 2050. The global cost of dementia is over $US one trillion in 2018, exceeding the market value the world’s largest companies including Apple and Microsoft.

Dementia is now widely recognised as one of the most significant health crises of the 21st century.

Research suggests that leading a healthy lifestyle may help to reduce a person’s risk of developing dementia later in life. The general rule is what’s good for the heart is good for the brain, so both should be well looked after with a balanced diet and regular physical and mental exercise.

Much of what’s needed are simple activities you can include in your day to day life. Remember, it’s never too late to make any of these changes.

Below are five ways you can help to reduce your risk of developing dementia:

1. Look after your heart

Smoking, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes and obesity all damage the blood vessels and increase the risk for having a stroke or a heart attack, that could contribute to developing dementia in later life. These problems can be prevented through healthy lifestyle choices and should be treated effectively if they do occur.

2. Be physically active

Physical activity and exercise are powerful preventive medicines, helping you control your blood pressure and weight, as well as reducing the risk of type II diabetes and some forms of cancer. There is also some evidence to suggest that some kinds of physical activity can reduce the risk of developing dementia. The good news is that getting active is proven to make us feel good and is a great activity to do with friends and family.

3. Follow a healthy diet

Food is fuel for both brain and body. We can help both to function properly by eating a healthy, balanced diet. Some evidence suggests that a Mediterranean-type diet, rich in cereals, fruits, fish, legumes and vegetables can help to reduce the risk of dementia. While more studies are needed on the benefits of specific foods or supplements, we do know that eating lots of foods which are high in saturated fat, sugar and/or salt is associated with a higher risk of heart disease, and is best avoided.

4. Challenge your brain

By challenging the brain with new activities you can help build new brain neurons and strengthen the connections between them. This may counter the harmful effects of Alzheimer’s disease and other dementia pathologies. By challenging your brain, you can learn some great new things. So how about learning a new language or taking up a new hobby?

5. Enjoy social activities

Social activities may be beneficial to brain health because they stimulate our brain reserves, helping to reduce our risk of dementia and depression. Try and make time for friends and family. You can even combine your activities with physical and mental exercise through sport or other hobbies.

For more information, do not hesitate to contact a health professional. In Quebec, the Alzheimer Society can also help you by providing you with information, resources, education, support and advice. Ask your local society for services near you.