There is no failsafe method to avoid dementia, and you also cannot change your family history or stop getting older, which are two of the most significant risk factors for the disorder. Altering your way of life is something you can do, and studies have shown that certain behaviours may have a big role in determining your risk of developing dementia. In point of fact, a significant study that was published in The Lancet in 2017 revealed that nine modifiable risk factors are responsible for more than a third of dementia cases.
According to Elizabeth Morrison-Banks, MD, a neurologist at Riverside Community Hospital in Riverside, California, “There is a lot you can do in terms of lifestyle alterations to increase brain health and minimise dementia risk.” However, it can be challenging to change long-term routines, and she notes that patients need to “remain strong and positive” in their approach. In light of this, the following is a list of major no- no’s, which are harmful habits connected to dementia, along with some recommendations on how to adopt better behaviours for brain health.
In previous decades, there were research that claimed that smoking cigarettes really protected us from dementia. These studies were frequently influenced by the tobacco industry. Today, specialists acknowledge that the contrary is in fact the case.
Tobacco use, as comparison to not using tobacco, is thought to dramatically increase one’s risk, with some research suggesting that this increase could be as high as fifty percent. Both Alzheimer’s disease (AD) and vascular dementia, a form of dementia that can be caused by strokes or other diseases that impede blood flow to the brain, are closely connected to smoking. According to the findings of a study that was published in The Lancet Neurology in 2011, smoking is responsible for around 14 percent of all instances of AD worldwide.
This is due, in large part, to the fact that smoking increases your risk of getting other diseases that are related with dementia, such as heart disease, stroke, and diabetes. It achieves this goal in part by hastening the process of atherosclerosis, which can be defined as the thickening of your blood vessels.
- Homocysteine, an amino acid in your blood that, at high amounts, may be detrimental to you, is raised as a result of this.
- Increases the risk of inflammation
- This results in oxidative stress, which is a disruption in your body’s capacity to neutralise potentially hazardous free radicals.
WHAT TO DO: Kicking the habit significantly reduces the risk, bringing it down to a level that is about equivalent to that of those who do not smoke. Need assistance getting started? Here are some tips to help you kick the habit.
BEING A COUCH POTATO
If there was ever a reason to get off your behind, it would be for the health of your brain. Being physically inactive or doing very little, sometimes known as leading a sedentary lifestyle, can increase your risk of developing dementia. This is due, in large part, to the fact that people who lead sedentary lifestyles are at a greater risk of developing obesity, diabetes, and other illnesses that exacerbate risk. However, inactivity also has an effect on the physical structure of the brain. For instance, according to Dr. Morrison-Banks, it hastens the process of the blood arteries in that area narrowing, which can reduce the amount of blood flow and oxygen delivery.
WHAT TO DO Although it has not been conclusively demonstrated, many experts believe that engaging in regular physical activity, particularly in one’s younger and middle years, has a strong potential to reduce one’s chance of developing dementia. It helps protect against other medical issues, can keep your blood vessels healthier, and may even trigger positive chemical activity in the brain. All of these benefits come as a result of its antioxidant properties. You can avoid feelings of isolation by engaging in physical activity since it can help you make new social relationships (more on that later).
According to federal guidelines, adults should engage in moderate activity for at least 150 minutes per week or vigorous activity for at least 75 minutes per week. Morrison-Banks recommends aerobic activities, sometimes known as cardiovascular exercises, such as speed walking. To get started, take a walk around your local area, perhaps via a park or even through a shopping centre. It is ideal to maintain a healthy lifestyle over a lengthy period of time, but any degree of fitness is beneficial.
BECOMING SOCIALLY ISOLATED
Relationships and personal connections are important factors to consider while assessing the probability of developing dementia. According to the findings of a survey published in 2017 by the Lancet, social isolation was found to affect the odds of developing dementia similarly to high blood pressure and a lack of physical activity. Yikes.
Why? Since you won’t have as much mental stimulation when you’re alone yourself, it’s possible that your cognitive abilities will deteriorate more rapidly. Isolation, like other risk factors, raises a person’s likelihood of developing conditions related to dementia, such as hypertension and depression. If you have previously been diagnosed with one of these illnesses, it may make your condition worse. It is simple to put off caring for oneself or getting necessary medical treatment when there is no one to inspire you.
Isolation is another hallmark of dementia; as patients become increasingly unable to negotiate the interactions they encounter on a day-to-day basis, they may find themselves spending more and more time by themselves. It might be challenging to determine which came first in some situations.
WHAT TO DO: Whether it’s getting together for dinner with loved ones or joining a book club, make it a point to keep engaged as much as your health permits. It has the potential to assist strengthen your cognitive reserve, which refers to the ability of your brain to function even when it is beginning to diminish. According to Morrison-Banks, developing cognitive reserve is analogous to saving money in the bank “so that you have a cushion in the event that an unforeseen financial shortfall.”
Hearing loss that occurs with ageing is associated to an increased risk of dementia, in part because it might drive people to withdraw socially from their communities. Hearing aids are one solution that could assist you in reconnecting with loved ones and friends if you are having difficulty in this area.
EATING TOO MUCH SUGAR OR “BAD” FATS
The research in this area is still in its infancy, but it appears that if you spend a significant portion of your life devouring fast food like French fries and ice cream, it may take a toll on your brain. Numerous studies, albeit not all of them, have found a link between a typical Western diet and an increased risk for dementia. This link is thought to be due to the average Western diet’s high levels of saturated fat, added sugars, and processed meats.
When it comes to the question of why, one possible answer is that this type of eating is a contributor to illnesses such as diabetes, heart disease, and obesity. According to research, your risk of developing dementia increases by as much as 50 percent if you are fat when you are in the middle of your life. In addition, persons who have type 2 diabetes have up to two times the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease compared to those who do not have diabetes. Alzheimer’s disease is sometimes also referred to as “type 3 diabetes.”
Even if someone does not have diabetes but still has high blood sugar, there is some evidence to suggest that this may increase their chance of developing dementia. For instance, a study that lasted for ten years and involved roughly 5,200 people and was published in the journal Diabetologia in 2018 indicated that those with higher-than-normal blood glucose levels saw a speedier deterioration in cognitive function, even if diabetes wasn’t diagnosed.
WHAT TO DO In general, according to Morrison-Banks, “A healthy diet low in saturated fat and featuring whole grains and more plant-based foods can be fairly strong in boosting cognitive health.” [Citation needed] And despite the fact that there is not yet sufficient data to suggest that any particular eating plan reduces the risk of dementia, eating plans such as the Mediterranean-style diet, the MIND diet, and the DASH diet are frequently suggested by specialists as being generally advantageous. They have the potential to aid in weight loss and frequently result in improved cardiovascular health, improved insulin levels, and reduced inflammation; all of these things are beneficial to your brain.
DISREGARDING THE PROBLEMS WITH YOUR HEALTH
There is a wide variety of other medical disorders that can increase your risk of dementia; therefore, it is essential to maintain control over these conditions or, if at all possible, to stop them from occurring in the first place. According to Morrison-Banks, “you have a lot higher chance of keeping cognitive function as you become older if you can control the underlying causes.” “If you can control the underlying causes,” The following three have been identified as being among the most dangerous:
If you have hypertension, you have a risk factor that is 1.5 times higher for developing dementia. High blood pressure. The connection is complicated, but it can be explained by the impact high blood pressure has on the thickness and elasticity of blood vessels, in addition to its not insignificant involvement in strokes. In addition to the many other potential benefits, controlling high blood pressure, particularly around middle age and later in life, may lower the risk of developing dementia.
Depression: Although we know that dementia can cause depression, studies suggest that a previous history of depression or the onset of depression later in life is related with an increased risk of dementia as well. Because of this, it is essential to be aware of its signs, which include a depressed mood and a lack of interest in activities that you previously enjoyed. If you notice any symptoms, you should consult a healthcare provider so that you can be examined.
Diabetes Mellitus Type 2: As was noted earlier, diabetes mellitus type 2 is a significant risk factor for dementia. The most effective strategy is to stop it from happening in the first place. Talk to your primary care physician about getting the required tests, and make sure to maintain a balanced diet and a regular exercise routine. And if you’ve already been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, keeping it under control and getting treatment for it may help lessen your risk of dementia.