Showing posts with label activities to reduce dementia. Show all posts
Showing posts with label activities to reduce dementia. Show all posts

Monday, March 7, 2022

Cut Your Dementia Risk by 40% in 12 Steps!

Dementia is the umbrella term used to describe a wide variety of illnesses which cause memory loss and other cognitive and physical problems. These diseases include Alzheimer's Disease, vascular dementia, Parkinson's dementia, Lewy body dementia, frontotemporal dementia, Creutzfeldt-Jakob, Wernicke-Korsakoff, and others.  Diagnosis can be difficult, because there are so many different causes of dementia, and seniors can suffer from more than one cause at the same time.  For example, it is not unusual for someone to have both Alzheimer's Disease and vascular dementia, simultaneously.  Other combinations are also possible.

Because there are so many causes of dementia, it makes finding a cure even more complicated. However, a new study by the Lancet Commission on Dementia Prevention, Intervention and Care has shown that when people change their behavior to modify twelve risk factors, they are able to delay or prevent approximately 40% of dementia cases! 

Below are the risk factors they identified which increase your risk of developing dementia as you age. This includes their original nine risk factors, plus three risk factors which have only been added by the Lancet Commission in their most recent report.

Original Nine Risk Factors for Dementia

Your risk of developing dementia near the end of your life goes up with the number of risk factors you have.  Obviously, age is the greatest risk factor.  However, some people manage to age without getting dementia. The people who do develop it are more likely to have experienced one or more of the following risk factors. 

Less Education in Early Life

Hearing loss beginning in middle age

Hypertension and Obesity



Social Isolation

Physical Inactivity

Diabetes after Age 65

New Risk Factors Added by the Lancet Commission

Excessive Alcohol Intake beginning in mid-life

A Head Injury in mid-life or later

Exposure to air pollution in later life

How to Lower Your Dementia Risk

Obviously, we cannot go back and change the past.  However, regardless of your age, it may not be too late to make lifestyle changes which will protect your mental function for years to come.

As a result of this research, there are obvious steps you can take throughout your life in order to reduce your risk of experiencing severe dementia in your later years

Continue to educate yourself throughout your lifetime.  Even if you stopped your formal education at an early age, there is no reason you cannot take continuing education classes in your field, and learn new skills or improve old ones. Spread your wings and try something new. You do not have to limit yourself to the basic classes you took as a child.  Take classes which interest you, including music lessons, foreign language classes, or anything you always wanted to learn.   This is one way to keep your brain sharp for decades.  Reading books and newspapers also helps to keep your brain sharp.

A good book to read in order to learn more about how to protect your brain from cognitive decline is:

Link: The Alzheimer's Prevention Program: Keep Your Brain Healthy for the Rest of your Life (Ad)

This book covers some important aspects of dementia prevention.  This includes "how to strengthen memory and avoid everyday lapses. How to incorporate the top ten brain-protecting foods into your diet. How to cross-train your brain, exercising both the right and left hemisphere. And how to reduce stress, a risk factor for developing dementia and Alzheimer’s, through meditation and 11 other relaxation strategies."

In addition to educating yourself, reading, and learning new things, you will also want to try the following tips from the Lancet Commission in order to protect your brain from early dementia.

See a hearing specialist every few years, starting in middle age. Get a hearing aid, when and if it is needed.  You can also reduce your risk of hearing loss by using ear protection when exposed to loud equipment or music. 

Do not smoke or use any tobacco products. They mess with your brain!  You should also avoid second-hand smoke. Ask guests who smoke to do so outside your home. (It should go without saying that you should also avoid illicit drugs if you want your brain to be fully functional in your later years.)

Get treatment for symptoms of depression or other mental illnesses.  They will only complicate any symptoms of cognitive decline you experience later, and make cognitive issues harder to treat.  Many mental illnesses, including depression, also make us more likely to isolate, which is another risk factor for cognitive decline and dementia.

Develop your social connections and spend time with your friends, family, and favorite social groups regularly. Do not drop your relationships, especially the ones you enjoy.   Positive friendships will enrich your life for years, and socializing is actually good for your brain.  Just the act of having a conversation is great exercise for your brain.  You constantly have to react to what other people say and almost instantly come up with an appropriate response. In a good conversation, you activate a variety of parts of your brain, including your ability to listen, speak, and look at the other person. Your brain is constantly picking up non-verbal clues, too. For example, it helps you determine if a comment is serious or meant as a joke. Depending on if you are sharing a meal with the other person, you may also activate your senses of taste and smell.  What seems like a simple conversation can be one of the best brain exercises you can do. 

Get exercise. Ideally, your regular physical exercise should include at least 30 minutes of walking, five or more times a week. However, it could also mean any exercise you enjoy, such as swimming, golf, bicycling or tennis. Moving helps move blood through your heart, brain and other organs.  Any exercise which is good for your heart is also good for your brain. In addition to aerobic exercise, you should add weight training and stretching exercises to maintain healthy muscle tone.

Eat a healthy diet to reduce your risk of diabetes and obesity. Many people have found success following the Mediterranean Diet. Another variation of it, called The MIND diet (Ad) is highly recommended by experts.  You should also avoid eating a lot of junk food, fried food, candy, pastries and similar low quality foods with little nutritional value. 

Maintain a systolic blood pressure of 130 Hg or lower after the age of 40. Prolonged high blood pressure is bad for both your heart and your brain.  If you cannot keep your blood pressure at a healthy level through diet and exercise, ask your doctor about prescribing blood pressure medication.

Keep alcohol use to a minimum, which is approximately three small drinks a week for women, and six for men.  A little alcohol is acceptable.  However, excessive drinking is a contributing factor for some types of dementia.  

Avoid head injuries.  Do not take physical risks which could cause you to have a concussion.  Frequent concussions can cause chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE.  It has been detected in the brains of many former professional football players, as well as other athletes.  You cannot undo any damage you may have from past concussions.  However, avoid future activities which could increase the damage.

Minimize your exposure to air pollution as much as possible.  Take air quality into consideration when choosing where to live. Avoid close proximity to freeways and other major roadways.  Exercise outdoors in the early morning or go to a gym on high pollution days, and avoid walking or jogging near freeways or busy streets.  Cases of dementia are higher in communities with especially high pollution.

Continue to follow research about dementia, and take advantage of any new recommendations your doctors may have.  There is a lot of current research on medications and treatments for the different types of dementia, and researchers are trying to find various ways to prevent it or, at the very least, slow it down.

One book which many people have found helpful is:

This book has been very useful to people who are serious about changing their lifestyle in order to reduce their risk of developing dementia. 

While taking these steps may not guarantee that you will avoid dementia, they will go a long way towards eliminating as many causes as possible.  If you have ever had an older relative with dementia, you know that is not how you want to spend the last few years of your life.  Most of us will do anything possible to avoid it.

Buy this at:
While you are following your program to ward off dementia, you should be sure to get plenty of exercise.  Protect your face and eyes with this "Forever Young" sun visor in choice of several colors. 

You can find this visor and more gifts for yourself, retirees and others at my Etsy Store, DeborahDianGifts. Check it out here:

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Photo credit:  Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay; book covers from Amazon and GoodReads 


Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Reduce Alzheimers and Other Dementia Risks - You Can Protect Your Brain Health

My mother died of dementia.  Her doctors suspected it was a combination of Alzheimer's Disease and vascular dementia.  It was heart-breaking to see an active, independent woman dissolve into someone who could not take care of even her most basic needs.  As sad as it is to admit it, some of my mother's lifestyle choices may have contributed to her dementia. For example, she began smoking when she was a teenager and did not stop until she died at age 86.  She also ate a diet which was high in sugar and saturated fats.  Fried chicken cooked in lard was our standard Sunday dinner when I was growing up. She loved donuts and ice cream sundaes.  Eventually, these behaviors lead to a massive heart attack at age 65, followed by bi-pass surgery and, a decade later, the development of dementia.  I am sure that if she had known the future consequences of her early behaviors, she would have made some changes.

You do not have to simply give in and let yourself or someone you love develop Alzheimer's Disease or other types of dementia.  While you may not be able to avoid the past damage you have done to your body and brain, or prevent every possible cause of dementia, such as a brain injury or environmental hazards, there is no reason to simply let your memory go without a fight.

Studies show that people who make certain lifestyle changes can greatly reduce their dementia risk.  I believe most people will think it is worth the effort.

Four Pillars of Brain Health

Recently, I attended a lecture presented by Alzheimer's Orange County.  The speaker did an excellent job of concisely explaining the steps we can take in order to protect our brains from decline.  She referred to her lecture as the Four Pillars of Brain Health, which are listed below. 

Follow a heart healthy diet.  Yes, this article is about brain health.  However, researchers have discovered that anything which is good for the heart is also good for the brain.  There are a number of beneficial books you may find helpful, such as  the MIND diet, (Ad) the DASH diet or the Mediterranean Diet.  They are all very similar and all of them will help your brain.  Simply put, you should eat lots of vegetables, fruits, nuts, beans, whole grains, fish, poultry, unsaturated fats such as olive oil, and some lean meats.  Avoid solid fat, sugar, salt, fried foods, fatty meats, and fast foods.

If you are at risk of developing diabetes, follow the diet your doctor recommends.  If you already have diabetes, treat it carefully.  There is a high correlation between diabetes and dementia.  In fact, some researchers have referred to dementia as Type 3 Diabetes.  If you want to protect your brain, you need to start by keeping your blood sugar at healthy levels.

Get plenty of exercise and take care of your physical health.   The more you move, the more you increase the blood and oxygen flow to the brain.  In fact, the Mayo Clinic reports that, "Sitting is the new Smoking."  No matter how poor your current physical condition, you can do something.  Sign up for a chair exercise class, yoga, or water aerobics.  Go for regular walks in your neighborhood, even if you can only go a short distance in the beginning.  Lift light weights when you are sitting and watching television.  Any movement, even cleaning your home, will improve your physical condition, protect your brain, and keep you from spending endless hours sitting.

In addition, if your brain is important to you, you should stop smoking, make sure you get adequate sleep, keep your alcohol use to a minimum, handle your stress in healthy ways, avoid head injuries and see your dentist and doctor regularly for exams, blood tests and appropriate medications, when necessary, to handle problems such as high blood pressure or cholesterol.

To learn more about lifestyles which are good for both the heart and brain, you can use this link to a list of helpful Blue Zones books. (Ad) They have invaluable information for anyone who wants to live a healthy, long life.

Exercise your brain.  The jury is still out on whether or not it really helps to play brain games on the computer.  What you should focus on is making sure you actually use your brain regularly to learn new things.  Read books, play games which require a lot of thought, develop new hobbies, and take classes.  Your brain is like a muscle and you do not want to let it atrophy.  You are never too old to learn something new.  Is your cell phone driving you crazy?  Sign up for a class to learn all its little tricks.  Have you always wanted to play an instrument?  It is not too late.  Planning a trip?  Why not learn a new language?   Challenge yourself.  You may be surprised at just how much cognitive ability you still have.

Get socially involved with other people.  In addition to developing new hobbies, socializing regularly is a fun way to take care of our brains.  When I was a Camp Fire Girl leader for our daughters, they sang a song about friendship.  The lyrics were, "Make new friends, but keep the old; one is silver and the other gold."  This is just as true as we age as it is for children.  We will lose friends as we get older.  It is very important we do not use that as a reason to sit home and isolate.  That is terrible for our brain health!  Join a club or social group. Sign up to sing in a choir, like the one pictured at the top of this article. Volunteer in the community, especially in a position which involves meeting other people.  Get involved in a place of worship. Join in the activities at your local senior center.  Whatever you choose to do, put some effort into meeting new people and getting involved in fun activities.

Whenever possible, choose activities which can help your brain in more than one way.  For example, having a lunch group can also help you eat right, as well as maintain social connections. Signing up for golf lessons will help your physical health and give you the opportunity to meet new people.  Learning to play bridge can benefit you both cognitively and socially.  The bottom line is to stay active, keep moving, and make healthy lifestyle changes which are good for your heart and brain.  Your body will thank you!

If you are interested in more information about how to stay healthy as you age, where to retire, financial planning, Social Security, Medicare, travel and more, use the tabs or pull down menu at the top of the page to find links to hundreds of additional helpful articles.

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Photo credit:  Sonata retirement home choir in Florida - Sonata Twitter account