Monday, February 27, 2023

Dementia - Are You Increasing Your Risk?

 Many aging seniors fear getting dementia, even more than they fear dying. In fact, Alzheimer's Disease and other forms of dementia are two of the most popular health searches on Google. Although we all want to avoid slowly losing our memories and our connection to our loved ones, many people are not aware of what activities actually increase their dementia risk, and what changes they could make in their lives to lower their risk.  Fortunately, there are steps we can all take which will make us more likely to retain our mental capacity for years longer.  The first step is knowing some of the common causes of dementia, and how you can avoid them.

What is Dementia?

Dementia is an umbrella term for all types of memory loss and cognitive decline, including Alzheimer's Disease, vascular disease, Lewy Body dementia, Parkinson's dementia, and other illnesses. Because there are so many different types of dementia, there are also a wide variety of activities which can speed up the process.  On the other hand, if we avoid certain behaviors and activities, we may be able to slow down the process enough that we retain our cognitive function for all of our life.

After reading the suggestions below, if you want more details on how to avoid dementia, you might try reading the book: "The End of Alzheimer's: The First Program to Prevent and Reverse Cognitive Decline." (Ad)

Dementia Causes We Cannot Avoid

Of course, there are some things which contribute to dementia which we cannot avoid.  The older we are, the more likely we are to have some cognitive decline. In fact, about one-third of people over the age of 85 have signs of Alzheimer's Disease, and the percentage increases as they get older. In addition, certain conditions tend to be genetic and we cannot change the genes we have inherited from our ancestors.

Even though we cannot change our genes or avoid getting older, it is still possible to change our behavior so these factors have less of an effect on our brains.  It is possible for many of us to reach extreme old age without serious cognitive decline, but the sooner we start, the more likely we will be able to save our brains from damage.

Risk Factors for Dementia

According to WebMD, there are a number of behaviors and health conditions which increase our dementia risk.  The more we do to improve our general health, the more we are also doing to reduce our dementia risk.  Here are some specific issues they emphasized:

Heart Disease and Strokes - Anything which increases our risk of heart disease, such as using tobacco, developing diabetes, or allowing high blood pressure and cholesterol to go untreated, will also increase our dementia risk.  A stroke, in particular, can cause serious damage to our brain.  It is important to follow our doctor's recommendations to avoid having a stroke and, if you have already had one, it is important to be even more aggressive in preventing another one.  Anything which is good for the heart is good for the brain. Anything which damages the heart, also damages the brain.

Diabetes - Diabetes can damage our blood vessels, and that can reduce the blood flow to our brains.  The reduced blood flow can lead to vascular dementia. It is very important to keep your diabetes under control with a healthy diet, exercise and medications.  

High Blood Pressure and Cholesterol - Letting these conditions go untreated makes you more likely to develop either vascular dementia or Alzheimer's Disease.  It is important to follow the instructions of your doctor so these conditions do not damage your blood vessels.  Get annual checks of your cholesterol levels, and monitor your blood pressure regularly at home. Contact your doctor if it gets too high.  If you are given medication, be sure to take it regularly.

Depression - Researchers have not determined whether depression causes dementia or if dementia is an early symptom of certain types of dementia, such as Parkinson's Disease or Huntington Disease. If you are depressed, talk to your doctor and see a therapist, if recommended.  In addition, taking medication for your depression may help.  Unfortunately, sinking into depression makes it less likely that you will take care of your general health, so depression definitely increases your dementia risk. 

Head Trauma - Not all head trauma can be avoided. For example, if you are in an automobile accident or a weather disaster, you may not be able to avoid injuring your head.  However, if you have played in a rough, physical sport or engaged in high impact activities which caused your head trauma, you could have up to four times the dementia risk later in life.  No matter your age, it is important to seek medical attention immediately for a serious head injury, especially if you pass out or experience blurry vision, dizziness, confusion or nausea.  An untreated concussion as a teenager could result in an increased dementia risk later in life.

Obesity - Few people realize that there could be a correlation between being overweight in middle age and having dementia later in life.  Talk to your doctor or join a healthy weight loss program in order to get your weight under control.  In addition to reducing your dementia risk, losing weight could also lower your risk of heart disease and cancer.

Poor Sleep - Do you brag about being able to get by with very little sleep?  Unfortunately, this could increase your dementia risk later in life.  If you do not sleep well, try to avoid alcohol, caffeine and the use of electronic devices in the evening.  If this does not help, speak with your doctor before using sleep aides.  You may need to be treated for sleep apnea, which also increases your heart attack risk and your risk of dementia.

Tobacco Use - Smoking and other tobacco use can increase your risk of a stroke and vascular dementia.  It can make it harder to think or remember past events.  The sooner you stop the tobacco use, the more your brain will benefit. 

Poor Diet - If your favorite meal is a big steak or giant hamburger, you might want to reconsider.  Instead, check out the MIND Diet for Beginners, (Ad) which is very similar to the heart-healthy Mediterranean Diet. This book will get you started on a healthier lifestyle which could significantly help you postpone many types of dementia. Eating more whole grains, fruits, nuts, avocados and olive oil can significantly reduce your dementia risk.

Sedentary Lifestyle - If you want to avoid dementia, it is important that you keep moving as much as possible throughout your life.  Whether you like brisk walking, dancing, gardening, or just doing housework, the more you move, the lower your dementia risk.  You should try to get at least 30 minutes of exercise a day. 

Lack of Brain Stimulation - The more you learned as a child and young adult, the lower your dementia risk later in life.  However, it is not necessary to have a formal education in order to stimulate your brain.  Become a lifelong learner. Read books.  Learn new skills. Play games which require some thought.  Do crosswords and other puzzles. The more your stimulate your brain, the lower your dementia risk.  Want a book to start with?  Try reading "The End of Alzheimer's: The First Program to Prevent and Reverse Cognitive Decline." (Ad)  It could help you avoid dementia in even more ways! 

Are you contributing to your dementia risk?  The good news is that it probably is not too late to turn things around. Take action now!

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Looking for a gift for yourself or a fellow retiree?  Perhaps you have an adult child or grandchild kand would like to celebrate a special event in their life. Give them this lovely pendant.  The card in the gift box can even be personalized with your own special message.  Just send me a message in my Etsy shop, and I will work with you to make a lovely gift for them!

You can find gifts for retirees and others at my Etsy Store, DeborahDianGifts:

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Photo credits: Google Images Alzheimer's Association,

Sunday, February 12, 2023

Volunteering on Vacation or in Retirement - Improve Your Life and the Lives of Others

You can help others when you go on vacation!
This month we have a delightful guest post from freelance writer Jenn Walker. Have you ever wondered how you could use your vacation time or retirement years to have a fabulous experience you will remember the rest of your life, while helping to improve the world at the same time?  There are organizations to help you plan the best trip of a lifetime for you.

In addition to the programs listed below, you can also check with your religious organization or national charities and public service organization to learn more ways you can volunteer to help others during your next vacation.  You can make a difference! 

Using Vacation to Volunteer During Retirement

by Jenn Walker

Volunteering on vacation can be a rewarding and fulfilling way to spend your retirement years. Not only does it allow you to give back to your community and make a positive impact on the world, but it can also be a great way to learn new skills, meet new people, and experience different cultures. There are many organizations which offer volunteer opportunities for people who are retired and looking to make a difference while on vacation. Plan your next break from your senior living campus, and check out some great examples below.


GoEco is a well-respected ecotourism company that was founded by experienced volunteers in 2006. The organization has a strong commitment to safety and quality and has been recommended by reputable sources such as the Boston Globe and USA Today. GoEco has placed over 15,000 volunteers in programs around the world in their first 15 years of operation and has more than 150 initiatives to choose from. They offer a range of volunteer abroad opportunities that are suitable for senior citizen volunteers and retirees, including projects specifically designed for mature volunteers.

One exciting opportunity they offer is a chance to volunteer at a Bali Sea Turtle Rescue. This program allows you to work closely with sea turtles and contribute to conservation efforts. Daily tasks include cleaning and feeding the turtles at the center, as well as helping with public outreach and collecting turtle eggs that have been saved by fishermen.

Located just next to Bali, Nusa Penida is known for its beautiful beaches and stunning natural surroundings. You'll have the opportunity to stay in a volunteer house that is conveniently located near all the action. During your free time, you can take advantage of the island's many attractions and enjoy the local culture. This program starts at $980 for two weeks and is a great way to make a positive impact while also experiencing a new and exciting destination.

Volunteering Solutions (VolSol)

VolSol is a top-rated organization that offers volunteer opportunities for seniors overseas. Established in 2007, VolSol has provided meaningful placements for over 17,000 volunteers on over 150 projects in 25+ countries worldwide. The organization has affordable pricing, with projects starting at $200, and also offers travel insurance for just $12 per week. If you are a senior looking for a fulfilling and impactful volunteer experience abroad, Volunteering Solutions is definitely worth considering.

One example of their amazing programs is a chance to teach English at a nursery, primary, or secondary school in Zanzibar. Schools in this region often face challenges such as a lack of resources and a lack of development in their curricula, making it an area where volunteers can make a significant difference.

If you have a background in education, you can use your skills to teach basic subjects like English and math to students. As a volunteer, you will be responsible for tasks such as preparing lesson plans, assisting teachers with lessons, helping with administrative tasks like reception and translation, creating tests, and introducing new teaching methods. In addition to volunteering, you will have time to explore the local culture and try Tanzanian cuisine.

Projects Abroad

Projects Abroad is a well-respected volunteer travel organization that has been operating for over 25 years and offers programs in a variety of locations, including Africa, Asia, Europe, the South Pacific, Latin America, and the Caribbean. Each year, the organization sends more than 10,000 volunteers to high-quality programs in areas such as archaeology, teaching, child care, medical assistance, and more. If you are 50 or older and looking for a meaningful and impactful way to spend your retirement or career break, Projects Abroad Grown-up Specials may be a perfect fit for you.

Grown-up Specials are designed specifically for older volunteers who want to make a difference globally. With a wealth of knowledge and experience, you can share your skills with communities around the world through activities such as teaching English, protecting the environment, and renovating schools. These trips are a great opportunity to make new friends and connections while experiencing a new culture. The itineraries for these trips are carefully designed to provide a balance between altruistic, cultural, and leisure activities, giving you a well-rounded experience of the country you visit. Projects Abroad will help you every step of the way to ensure that you have a smooth and rewarding experience.

About this Week's Guest Author:

Jenn Walker is a freelance writer, blogger, dog-enthusiast, and avid beach goer operating out of Southern New Jersey.

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The owner of this blog has personally followed important retirement advice, encouraging my readers to have a "side-gig," by starting my own Etsy store,, and I frequently advertise some of my products on this blog as well as other places. Learning the technological skills to keep this business going has been great for me mentally.  I hope you will visit my shop when you have a chance.  I now have hundreds of gifts listed there.  Among the items you will find there are fun retirement gifts and travel souvenirs, especially for Southern California, like the tranquil, fully lined, elegant beach tote back with "Easy Does It" written in the sky.  The photo was taken in Laguna Beach, California, but it could be almost any tropical scene!

Buy tote at
If you are interested in learning more about retirement, 
Medicare, Social Security, common medical issues as we age, financial planning, where to retire and more, use the tabs or pull down menu at the top of the page to find links to hundreds of additional helpful articles.

Disclosure: This blog may contain affiliate links. If you decide to make a purchase from an Amazon ad, or other type of ad, I'll make a small commission to support this blog, at no extra cost to you.

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Photo credits:  Jenn Walker,, DeborahDian's personal photo library