There are many things in life we cannot prevent, and aging is one of them. As we age, our bodies undergo many changes and become susceptible to many risks; one of the most common of these risks being dementia. The CDC defines the disease as one that brings about the “impaired ability to remember, think, or make decisions” and can have major social, psychological, physical, and economic impacts on our everyday lives.
According to the World Health Organization, there are approximately 50 million people worldwide currently living with dementia, and there are around 10 million new cases each year. Around the world, dementia is one of the major causes of disability and dependency among older people. Although dementia typically takes effect in individuals 65 years and older, it can impact anyone at any age. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia, making up about 60-70% of cases.
Dementia is not entirely preventable, and factors such as previous trauma, genetics, and even race/ethnicity can contribute to a development of the disease. Even though some individuals are more prone to developing dementia than others, incorporating these practices into your every day life may help in reducing your risk.
Here are some helpful habits that The Alzheimer’s Society recommends:
Remain physically active
Experts and doctors always cite strong, consistent physical activity to live a physically and mentally healthy life. Regular physical activity promotes good circulation, a healthy heart, strong build, and an overall better sense of mental wellbeing. The Alzheimer’s Society recommends beginning with at least ten minutes of physical activity, like walking, to build it up gradually. Aerobic activities, like riding a bike or jogging can be done on a weekly basis, as well as strength-building activities like push ups or even working in the garden.
Maintain a healthy diet
A healthy diet is the core to a balanced lifestyle, and can even reduce your risk of dementia, says the Alzheimer’s Society. This includes a well rounded diet of fruits or vegetables, protein, starch, and of course, water. Sugar intake and saturated fat should always be consumed in moderation, and salt should also be monitored as well.
Monitor your blood pressure and stress
High blood pressure is common in many adults, however, researchers suggest that high blood pressure can increase risk of dementia later on in life as early as 30. The aforementioned study at University College at London advises individuals to inquire with your doctor about high blood pressure, and take cautionary steps if you know you have high blood pressure. Stress, sleep, weight, and exercise must all be managed to help control blood pressure.
Besides the effects smoking can have on your health already, the Alzheimer Society notes that smoking can put you at a much higher risk of developing dementia in older age. Smoking can harm the circulation of blood in the body, especially the brain.
Consume less alcohol
In healthy bouts, drinking alcohol is not always bad. Drinking too much alcohol can increase your risk of dementia, however. Heavy drinking on an almost daily basis can put you at risk of ARBD, or alcohol-related brain damage.
Keep your mind active
Most individuals don’t make an active effort to keep learning after they finish school. Challenging yourself mentally, as the Alzheimer’s Society says, keeps the brain active and strengthens the brain’s ability to cope with disease. Consider taking on a new language, taking an online course that will interest you, daily reading, and doing crosswords or puzzles.
Stay socially involved
The Alzheimer’s Society also recommends keeping not only your mind active, but your social life active, as verbally talking and consistently communicating can help reduce the risk of developing dementia. Calling a friend, staying up-to-date on community services, and even engaging in conversations with anyone can keep the mind active.
Practice balance exercises
Traumatic brain injury, like concussions put individuals at a higher risk of developing dementia, a study by Dr. Donald Redelmeier concludes. There is a strong association between the two in older adults who are concussed, with falls and a loss of balance being the leading causes. To reduce the risk of loss of balance, try incorporating balance exercises into your workout routine or even in your daily activities. Eric Larson of the Kaiser Permanente Washington Health Research Institute in Seattle recommends maintaining muscle strength, particularly in the legs.