Currently there are more than 447,000 Australians living with dementia. There are different forms of dementia and each has its own causes. Some types of dementia may develop as a result of poor blood flow to the brain. This is generally due to high blood pressure and thickened arteries. Other forms are caused by the death of nerve cells in the brain, protein deposits on the brain, or genetic factors. The most common form of dementia is Alzheimer’s disease, unfortunately the causes of this disease are unknown.
Of all the types of dementia, there does seem to be one common thread – age. Although it does affect younger people, most people with dementia are over the age of 65. Age is the strongest known risk factor that cannot be changed, followed by genetics and family history.
With dementia so prevalent in our society, is there anything you can do to reduce your risk of dementia? Thankfully there is, here are some tips:
Look after your heart
- Lower your blood pressure. You can do this by increasing your exercise. Reducing your salt intake. Eating more potassium found in foods such as; leafy green vegetables, bananas, beans, tuna and salmon.
- Lower cholesterol by reducing the amount of saturated fats in your diet.
- Avoid risks associated with Type 2 diabetes such as:
- Sugary and fatty foods. Cut back on the amount of sugar, refined carbohydrates, and processed foods in your diet.
- Drink water as your primary beverage, and decrease your alcohol intake.
- Quit smoking. Smoking increase the risk of diabetes by 44%.
- Ensure you visit your doctor for regular check-ups. Your GP will be able to check and monitor your blood pressure, cholesterol and blood glucose levels.
Look after your body
- Physical activity increases blood flow to the brain and stimulates the growth of brain cells.
- Wear head protection when participating in sports or activities that pose a risk of head trauma. A hard knock to the head can cause the brain to bounce back and forth in the skull, leading to damaged brain cells.
- Eat a healthy, balanced diet. Some food sources such as fish oil, berries, and nuts and seeds have been found to prevent the degeneration of nerve cells in the brain.
- Get a good night’s sleep. Poor sleep can raise levels of two proteins associated with Alzheimer’s disease.
Look after your mind
- Stress less. Stress is a key driver of high blood pressure.
- Do some mental exercise. This can build and stimulate new brain cells. You could try puzzles, crosswords, and other brain teasers.
- Look after your emotional wellbeing. Depression is often associated with an increased risk of dementia.
- Build social networks. Social activity promotes a happier mindset and lowers blood pressure.
- Learn something new. Research has shown that learning something new will improve your memory.
It’s time to look after yourself and take some steps to reduce your risk of developing dementia.