Reducing dementia risk factors

Photo by Eberhard Grossgasteiger - Accessed on Unsplash

Independence is a trait we’re trained to value and take pride in at a young age. The first memories of going out for a sit-down meal or taking a ride with friends about town are cherished in many minds.

Losing one’s independence is a scary prospect, and dementia is a fast-growing health condition of concern to many older adults the world over.

It affects nearly 50 million people across the globe and can cause impairment of memory and cognition according to a study released by the World Health Organization (WHO), with 10 million additional cases diagnosed annually. While science has not yet developed a treatment for dementia, the WHO has several suggestions for lifestyle changes which can not only reduce the risk and lower one’s chances of developing symptoms but also improve overall health.

The pleasures of life are to be enjoyed well into adulthood, but making changes to your consumption can help prolong both mental and physical health into old age.

Smoking tobacco, for example, not only can cause a host of heart and lung-related illnesses — as well as many more — but also can boost your risk of dementia, particularly in individuals 65 or older.

While cutting tobacco use completely from one’s life is the WHO’s recommendation, they are more lenient when it comes to alcohol consumption.

An occasional alcoholic drink won’t have significant effects, according to the WHO report, and light alcohol consumption may even lower the risk of dementia.

However, heavy or excessive alcohol use can contribute to a decrease in cognitive function. So remember to take it easy when it comes to glasses of wine or pints of beer.

In addition to watching your alcohol and tobacco consumption, having a strong diet of fruit, vegetables, fish, nuts and coffee are all linked to reduced dementia risk.

Not only will this kind of diet help to play a role in brain health, but it will also promote overall healthfulness: improving one’s chances with diabetes, cancer and heart disease.

Your daily vitamins, however, might not be doing as much as you may hope.

The WHO has said there isn’t enough hard science to confirm positive effects from taking items such as vitamin B or E in preventing neurological decay.

Furthermore, getting up and getting out can add to your chances of staving off the effects of dementia.

The body is a holistic piece of engineering and what’s good for the goose is good for the gander; that is to say, studies have shown that folks who had regular exercise were considerably less likely to experience dementia compared to those who refrained.

You don’t need to be the next Olympic athlete or weightlifter: anything from jogging, biking or walking can help with getting your heart moving. Be sure to be safe and conscientious in any forms of exercise, however, and talk to your general practitioner if you have concerns.

And on the subject of talking: getting out includes getting out and being social. Isolation and loneliness are not only concerns for emotional well-being but staying active socially can improve your ability to ward off dementia as well.

Check out the many, diverse recreational and social programs offered by the Kerby Centre or your local seniors’ group: all it takes is a few small lifestyle changes to help you to keep your independence and health well into the future.