With more and more people developing dementia worldwide, and with no current medical solution, one wonders if there is anything that can be done to prevent developing it. According to recent research from Cambridge University 1 in 3 cases of Alzheimer’s disease (the main form of dementia) could be prevented by modifying lifestyle factors. So what are some of these lifestyle changes that have the ability to prevent this life altering disease?
Firstly let’s have a look at dietary choices: It is relatively well known that oily fish is good for the brain, and research published in the journal of Neurology (Pottala et al., 2014) supports this. According to this study people with higher levels of omega 3, obtained from a diet of fish, appear to have larger brain volumes in old age especially in the hippocampus of the brain, an area that comes under attack with Alzheimer’s disease. Controlling sugar intake is also very important in preventing dementia, as research has shown that people with higher blood sugar levels are more likely to have memory problems even if they do not have diabetes.
Alcohol consumption is another important lifestyle change that can help to prevent dementia. It was discovered by scientists from University College London that excessive alcohol consumption of more than four and a half units of alcohol per day can, especially in middle aged men, increase the speed of cognitive ageing which can increase your risk of developing dementia. So the obvious advice would be to cut back on alcohol if you want to try and prevent dementia.
Perhaps the biggest lifestyle change that can be made to help prevent dementia is to start exercising, if you aren’t already, or to do a little more of it if you already are. This is very important in dementia prevention since it has been shown that if teenagers at the age of 18 are unfit, they are seven times more likely to develop early-onset dementia. We’re all told to exercise but apart from keeping us lean, giving us more energy and a whole host of other benefits, it can also help to prevent dementia. So don’t neglect yourself, it’s important for your brain as well as your body!
Another big risk factor that when avoided can help to prevent dementia is smoking. According to a report by the World Health Organization 14% of Alzheimer’s disease cases worldwide are likely to be caused by smoking. This report also states that smokers have a 45% higher risk of developing all forms of dementia than non-smokers and that the more a person smokes, the higher their risk of developing the condition. So it’s not just the lungs that smoking affects, it affects your brain health too.
One of the final components of a healthy lifestyle that can also help to prevent cognitive decline is mental stimulation. People who can speak more than one language have been shown to delay the onset of dementia symptoms by an average of 4.5 years compared with someone who only speaks one language. Don’t fret if you aren’t multilingual though, people who regularly engage in cognitively stimulating activities such as reading, playing board games, playing a musical instrument or dancing are 47% less likely to develop dementia.
Dementia is currently an incurable disease; however, if you prevent it developing in the first place with a few simple lifestyle changes then you will not have to endure the difficulties that many who have this horrible disease must suffer. Surely that’s worth that extra pint or cigarette…
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