Can dementia be prevented?

What can you do to lower your risk of developing dementia?

Research into the causes, treatments or potential cure of dementia is in it’s infancy. We have an increasing understanding of the changes in the brain that cause the symptoms of dementia, but not what risk factors trigger these changes. However, research is beginning to show what lifestyle factors are likely to reduce your risk.

To reduce your risk of developing dementia and other serious health conditions, it’s recommended that you:

Maintain normal levels of social interaction

As we age our social and family network can be eroded through family moves, ill health or bereavement. Living alone and social isolation are associated with a more rapid progression of dementia symptoms. Maintain a normal level of family or social time where social interaction and conversation will stimulate those little grey cells.

Eat a healthy diet

A low-fat, high-fibre diet including plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables and wholegrains can help reduce your risk of some kinds of dementia. Limiting the amount of salt in your diet to no more than six grams a day can also help. Too much salt will increase your blood pressure, which puts you at risk of developing certain types of dementia such as vascular dementia. High cholesterol levels may also put you at risk of developing some kinds of dementia, so try to limit the amount of food you eat that is high in saturated fat.

Maintain a healthy weight

Being overweight can increase your blood pressure, which increases your risk of getting some kinds of dementia. The risk is higher if you are obese. The most scientific way to measure your weight is to calculate your body mass index (BMI) – Boots stores often have a weight machine that will also give you your BMI. People with a BMI of 25-30 are overweight, and those with a BMI above 30 are obese. People with a BMI of 40 or more are morbidly obese.

Exercise regularly

Exercising regularly will make your heart and blood circulatory system more efficient. It will also help to lower your cholesterol and keep your blood pressure at a healthy level, decreasing your risk of developing some kinds of dementia. Recent research has identified that exercising regularly during middle age is particularly important in reducing your risk. For most people, a minimum of 150 minutes (2 hours and 30 minutes) of moderate-intensity aerobic activity each week, such as cycling or fast walking, is recommended.

Don’t drink too much alcohol

Drinking excessive amounts of alcohol will cause your blood pressure to rise, as well as raising the level of cholesterol in your blood. Stick to the recommended limits for alcohol consumption to reduce your risk of high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease and dementia.The recommended daily limit for alcohol consumption is three to four units of alcohol a day for men, and two to three units a day for women. A unit of alcohol is equal to about half a pint of normal-strength lager, a small glass of wine or a pub measure (25ml) of spirits. Binge drinking carries a higher risk of permanent cognitive damage.

Stop smoking

Smoking can cause your arteries to narrow, which can lead to a rise in your blood pressure. It also increases your risk of developing cardiovascular diseases, cancer and dementia.

The NHS Smoking Helpline offers advice and encouragement to help you stop smoking. You can call them on 0800 022 4332 or visit the NHS Smokefree website. Your GP or pharmacist can give you help and advice on giving up smoking.

Exercise your little grey cells

Maintain activities and interests – in fact why not look for a few new ones? Retirement or family leaving the nest can impact on the level of activities, social interactions, learning experiences and other mentally stimulating experiences we engage in. Whatever your age or stage in life, make sure you continue to stimulate your brain, look particularly at challenging your brain with activities or experiences that really stretch you cognitively and engage you in learning new skills and knowledge.



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