Dementia risk reduction – how you can help

Written by Active Minds on Friday the 5th of May 2017.

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Unfortunately, there are no guaranteed ways to reduce your risk of being diagnosed with dementia, however, there are lifestyle choices you can make that will certainly reduce your risk of developing dementia when you are older.

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Diet

Eating a healthy balanced diet with plenty of fruit, vegetables and wholegrains will help limit your risk of dementia. You should also keep your amount of daily salt and sugar intake low, the NHS recommendation is less than 6 grams for salt and 30 grams for sugar. Too much salt increases your blood pressure, which can sometimes lead to certain types of dementia, whilst sugar can lead to dramatic spikes in blood sugar which inflame your brain. In Alzheimer’s, inflammation can damage neurons and prevent communication between brain cells, so by reducing inflammation and protecting the brain, you are helping reduce your risks.

Similarly, epidemiological research shows that eating Mediterranean style foods, such as beans, fish and olive oil, can reduce the risk of cognitive impairment and Alzheimer’s disease.

Alcohol

Whilst you don’t need to stop drinking alcohol at all, excessive alcohol consumption will impact your blood pressure as well as raising your cholesterol which can lead to dementia, as well as high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease. So, do enjoy a glass of wine at dinner, just make sure you stick to the recommended guidelines – three to four units of alcohol a day for men, and two to three units a day for women.

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Smoking

It goes without saying that everything about smoking is bad for your health, it leads to a whole host of diseases, including cancer, COPD and coronary heart disease. In terms of dementia, smoking causes your arteries to narrow which can lead to your blood pressure rising, which puts you at greater risk of dementia.

Weight

Another way of putting undue stress on your blood pressure is being overweight, so eat healthily and exercise regularly to keep your weight down. Exercise also has the added benefit of helping your heart and blood stay healthy, keeping your blood pressure at the right level and maintaining low cholesterol.

The type and amount of exercise you choose to take is completely up to you, the NHS recommends 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.

This exercise can also be extended to your brain. Stimulate your grey cells by learning a new skill, doing a crossword or playing a game – anything that gives your brain a workout is beneficial in reducing your risk of getting dementia.