Reducing your risk for dementia

Researchers are still trying to fully understand how the various forms of dementia develop. Without this understanding, there is no definitive way to prevent dementia, but there are simple steps you can take in your day to day life to help lower your risk of developing dementia. A healthy lifestyle can help reduce a variety of health conditions, such as cardiovascular diseases, which is itself a risk factor for dementia. Understanding the risk factors associated with dementia can enable you to act, reducing your risk for dementia.

How to reduce your risk of dementia

Creating a healthy lifestyle is the best way to reduce your risk of dementia, this can be done by understanding the risk factors associated with dementia and leading a life that manages them. Some risk factors we are able to change while others are more difficult or impossible to alter. Our genes and age are two risk factors that we don’t have control over. Although there are risk factors that we can not control there are many that we can. Research has shown that living a heart-healthy lifestyle is also a healthy brain lifestyle. Leading a healthy lifestyle and therefore reducing your risk of dementia can be done in the following ways:


1. Eating a well balanced, healthy diet

2. Maintaining a healthy weight

3. Exercising

4. Managing alcohol intake

5. Quit smoking

6. Maintaining a healthy blood pressure



Reducing the risk of dementia through diet


Through a healthy diet, your risk of developing high blood pressure, high cholesterol, becoming obese and developing type 2 diabetes can be reduced. A diet that is high in sugar, salt, saturated fats and low in fibre can increase your risk of developing these conditions. No one is perfect but try to follow the dietary recommendations as often as you can.

  • Aim for 5 portions of fruits and vegetables a day, this should make up over a third of the food you consume each day. A variety of fresh, tinned, frozen, dried and juiced can be worked into your daily meals. Fruits and vegetables are a great source of vitamins, minerals and fibre!

  • Starchy foods should make up the next roughly third of your diet. Aim for wholegrain varieties as these are high in fibre. Starchy foods also provide a great source of energy.

  • Dairy and dairy alternatives are a source of vitamins, proteins and calcium. Calcium plays a critical role in keeping bones strong. Where possible revert to options that are low in fat and sugar, this could be low-fat milk or low-fat yoghurt.

  • Beans, pulses, fish, eggs and meat are a good source of protein. Beans, peas and lentils are a great alternative to meat as they are high in fibre while low in fat. Aim for lean cuts of meat and 1 to 2 servings of fish a week.

  • A small amount of unsaturated fats are incorporated into your diet. These could be sunflower oil or vegetable oil.

  • Foods high in sugar, fat and salt should be eaten less frequently. This includes biscuits, sugary soft drinks, butter and ice cream.

  • And finally, water! Drink plenty of water, about 6 to 8 cups or glasses a day.


Reducing the risk of dementia through the maintenance of a healthy weight


Being overweight or obese can lead to an increase in your risk of type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure. High blood pressure and type 2 diabetes are risk factors linked to the two leading causes of dementia, Alzheimer’s and vascular dementia. Work with your doctor to understand what is a healthy weight for you, as everyone is different!



Reducing the risk of dementia through exercise


As previously mentioned high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes are linked to an increased risk for dementia. Regular exercise can help reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure and therefore dementia. Aim to exercise every day but at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity weekly. This could be walking or cycling. Additionally, try to complete strengthening exercise 2 times a week. Focus on the major muscle groups, legs, hips, arms, shoulders, chest, abdomen and back.


Reducing the risk of dementia through managing alcohol intake


Consuming a large amount of alcohol can have a negative effect on many parts of your body. It can damage your nervous system, which includes your brain. Additionally, it increasing your risk for stroke, heart disease, and some cancers. The recommended limit is 14 units per week.


Reducing the risk of dementia through stopping smoking


Smoking can lead to an increase in blood pressure, occurring through the narrowing of arteries. It also increases your risk of cancers and cardiovascular disease.



Reducing the risk of dementia through the maintenance of a healthy blood pressure


All the dietary recommendations provided also help to reduce high blood pressure. As discussed through the various recommendations high blood pressure is a risk factor for dementia. By working with your doctor and taking steps to lead a healthy lifestyle better managed blood pressure will help reduce the risk for dementia.


A healthy lifestyle can aid in your overall health. As it is unclear exactly what causes dementia it is best to strive for overall healthy habits. Reviewing our diet and making positive changes, exercising regularly, reducing our alcohol intake and stopping smoking are all activities that can be adjusted in our daily lives that will help reduce the risk for dementia among other conditions.


Sources:

https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/dementia/dementia-prevention/

https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/exercise/

https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/eat-well/the-eatwell-guide/

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