Are there Dementia Prevention methods that work? This is the question everyone wants to know the answer to. While there is no one way to prevent dementia, researchers continue to research how to prevent dementia. There is good evidence that living a healthy lifestyle can help lower your risk of dementia.
What is Dementia?
Dementia is used to describe symptoms that affect your memory, thinking, and behavior. These symptoms will start to interfere with performance of everyday activities. It usually develops in individuals over 65 years old and is known as a late-life disease.
Early signs of dementia will often go undetected and become noticeable over time. It is a progressive disease that currently has no cure. While there are many different types of Dementia, Alzheimer’s Disease, Vascular Dementia, Lewy Body Dementia, and Parkinson’s Disease Dementia are the most common.
What causes Dementia?
Several factors can cause dementia.
One of the causes of dementia is when brain cells and neurons begin to die because connections are lost. Proteins in the brain form plaques and tangles, the nerves die, and brain tissue is lost.
Trauma can also cause dementia. This can be from strokes, brain tumors, or head injuries. The damage then causes the cells in the brain to die.
Dementia can also be from depression, Vitamin B12 deficiencies, thyroid issues, or drug or alcohol use.
The good news about all this is that understanding the risk factors and possible dementia prevention may help prevent it as you age.
Risk Factors of Dementia
There are many risk factors that researchers have pointed out that may cause dementia. While some risk factors cannot be changed, others can be changed to help prevent dementia.
As you age, you are at a greater risk of developing dementia. It is important to note that dementia is not a normal sign of aging.
Some genetic factors play a role in the development of dementia.
Women are more likely to develop Alzheimer’s Disease. Men are more likely to develop Vascular Dementia than women.
Some evidence shows that come ethnic communities are more likely to develop dementia.
Other risk factors may include:
- Lower levels of education
- Hearing loss
- Untreated depression
- Loneliness / isolation
- Sedentary Lifestyle
Research shows by changing your lifestyle and modifying your risk factors, you can reduce your chances of developing dementia.
#1. Physical Activity
Being physically active in your life is one of the best ways to reduce the risk of dementia. It is good for different parts of your body, including your heart, weight, mental wellbeing, and circulation.
When you are not physically active, you are at a greater risk of developing heart disease, being overweight, and type 2 diabetes. All put you at a greater risk of developing dementia.
What to do: It is recommended that you get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise each week. This can include many different activities including, walking, cycling, swimming, tennis, pushing the lawnmower, and dancing. Consider strength training twice a week. Things like yoga and gardening can also be great options.
While it may be hard to get started at first, try to get up and move around more than you currently are.
Tips for staying active
Try these tips for staying active.
- Choose an activity you love: If you are forcing yourself to do something you hate, you won’t stick with it. Pick an activity you love, and you are more likely to stick with it.
- Wear an Apple Watch or Fitbit: Wearing an Apple Watch or Fitbit helps you stay accountable and enables you to track your steps and activity. It is easy to think we are active, but seeing our progress helps confirm if we are living an active life or need to add a little bit of activity to our life.
- Workout videos: It may be more difficult in the winter months if you love to work out outside. Find some workout videos that you can do indoors on rainy days or when it is too cold to be outside.
#2. Diet / Eating Healthy
If your diet is high in saturated fat, salt, and sugar, you are at an increased risk of developing high blood pressure, and high cholesterol. It is important to maintain healthy eating habits.
There is no specific food that can improve brain health. You need to maintain a balanced diet by eating a wide variety of foods in the right portions.
What to do: Eat a healthy balanced diet.
Tips for eating healthy
- Eat whole-grain foods with most of your meals.
- Eat more fruits and vegetables.
- Eat less red meat, especially processed foods like bacon and sausage.
- Eat more fish. Limit the amount of breaded and battered fish and focus more on fish like salmon and mackerel.
- Drink Low-fat milk rather than full-fat milk
- Use vegetable and plant oils. When you are cooking and using salad dressings, try and use olive oil. Try to avoid butter and lard when possible.
- Limit the amount of salt in your diet.
- Limit the amount of sugar in your diet.
- Limit the amount of alcohol you drink.
#3. Alcohol Consumption
When you consume excessive amounts of alcohol, you are at a greater risk of developing dementia. It can cause damage to your nervous system and brain, and you are at an increased risk of having a stroke, heart disease, or some cancers.
If you currently drink, make sure to consume it in moderation and within recommended limits. Drinking large amounts of alcohol at once can expose your brain to harmful chemicals in large amounts.
What to do: Limit your alcohol consumption.
Tips for limiting alcohol
- Limit yourself to how many drinks you will consume in one week.
- Have several days where you do not consume alcohol.
- Drink small-sized drinks.
- Try to drink drinks with lower-alcohol amounts or non-alcoholic beverages.
- Create a support network. Tell your friends that you are cutting back. This helps eliminate peer pressure when you are in a setting where alcohol is served.
- Set personal goals to drink less. Reward yourself when you reach those goals.
#4. Quit Smoking
Smoking causes narrowing in your arteries, raising your blood pressure and increasing your risk of cardiovascular disease. It is never too late to quit smoking.
What to do: If you currently smoke, do everything you can to try and quit. The sooner you quit, the better. Quitting can help prevent further brain damage caused by smoking.
Tips for Quitting Smoking
- Talk with your healthcare provider or pharmacist on ways to prevent smoking.
- Set small goals to smoke less and eventually stop. Reward yourself when those goals are met.
- Consider different alternatives to smoking to help you stop and then wean yourself from those products as well.
- Try using a 12 step program to help yourself stop smoking.
#5. Stay Active Mentally and Socially
It is important to stay active both mentally and socially. By doing this, it can help relieve stress and improve your mood. This may also help prevent dementia from developing.
What to do: To stay mentally active, find activities that challenge your brain. Staying socially active helps prevent dementia, so it is important to stay connected with others.
Tips for Staying Mentally Active
- Do puzzles/ crossword puzzles
- Read books
- Do arts and crafts
- Take classes
- Continuing education classes
- Play an instrument/ sing
- Play board games and card games
- Write in a journal
- Learn a language
Tips for Staying Socially Active
- Talk with people in person, over the phone, and online.
- Actively listen to others.
- Take the time to express what you are trying to stay
- Go to family gatherings
- Go out to lunch with friends.
#6. Treat Depression
Research shows that untreated depression can lead to a higher risk of developing dementia.
What to do: If you think you have depression, it is important to talk with your healthcare provider to get the treatment you need.
Tips for Coping with Depression
- Stay in touch with others.
- Be physically active.
- Limit alcohol consumption.
- Eat a balanced healthy diet.
- Have a routine.
- Seek medical attention if needed.
#7. Take Control of Your Health
Taking Control of your health and making regular appointments with your healthcare provider can help reduce your chances of developing dementia.
What to do: Visit your doctor for your annual well checks. Get the tests that they recommend and take any medications that may help prevent damage to your body from high cholesterol or blood pressure.
Tips for a healthier you
- Get a good night’s rest. Sleep is important and can help prevent dementia.
- Check your hearing. If you are struggling with your hearing, this can be an early sign of dementia.
While dementia is not treatable, getting the proper care and treatment early can help manage dementia and could help slow its progression. These dementia prevention tips may help reduce your chance of developing dementia. It is still important to be aware of all the symptoms of dementia and visit your healthcare provider if you think you may be living with dementia.
Key Points of Dementia Prevention
- There is no one way to prevent dementia, but a healthy lifestyle may help prevent dementia.
- It is important to know the risk factors of dementia and how to avoid them. Some risk factors cannot be changed. These include age, genes, gender, ethnicity. Other risk factors such as lower levels of education, hearing loss, depression, loneliness, or sitting a lot can be changed to help reduce your chance of developing dementia.
- Dementia prevention includes
- Being physically active
- Eating healthy / maintaining a healthy diet
- Limiting or stopping alcohol consumption
- Quit smoking
- Staying mentally and socially active
- Treat depression
- Taking Control of your health