Dementia is an umbrella term for a group of symptoms including memory loss, confusion, and loss of ability to make decisions and do everyday activities.
Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia, and it can cause a progressive decrease in brain health. People can suffer from more than one type of dementia.
Some common signs of dementia include memory loss and forgetfulness, trouble holding urine (incontinence), cannot use or find the right words and phrases, cannot do mental math exercises and social withdrawal.
Previous research has shown that one big risk factor is aging. Around 30% of people aged over 85 live with dementia.
Genetic factors also play a role in the onset of the disease.
Although both gene and aging cannot be changed, people can use healthy lifestyle habits to reduce dementia risk.
Here are six tips to do that:
Challenge your brain
Using your brain is an important way to cut dementia risk.
People can use their brain through workplace achievement and leisure activities such as reading, writing, playing card games, or learning a new language.
Research has shown that having less than ten years of formal education is linked to higher chances of developing dementia. Therefore, getting a formal education is important.
Have a healthy heart and body weight
There is a strong link between heart and brain health. For example, research has shown that high blood pressure and obesity could increase the risk of dementia.
One recent study showed that people who had type 2 diabetes were up to twice as likely to develop dementia in later life as healthy people.
A healthy diet, good night’s sleep, and regular exercise are important to maintain heart health and healthy body weight.
Do exercise regularly
Physical activity could protect against cognitive decline.
For example, one study examined more than 33,000 people and found that people who were physically active had an almost 40% lower risk of cognitive decline than inactive people.
Research also has shown that people should do at least 45 minutes moderate or high-intensity exercise to keep their brain strong.
This means huffing and puffing and finding it difficult to maintain a conversation.
Smoking tobacco is harmful to heart health, and toxic chemicals found in cigarettes could lead to inflammation and blood vessel problems in the brain.
The chemicals can also trigger oxidative stress and cause damage to our cells. These processes may help develop dementia.
To protect the brain from dementia, people should not smoke.
Have an active social network
Maintaining frequent social contact with friends, family, and colleagues has been linked to a lower risk of dementia. Feeling lonely may increase dementia risk.
Researchers suggest people join group or community activities to reduce their risk. Interestingly, the size of the friendship group appears less relevant than having regular contact with others.
Research has shown that in depression, the brain can change and that may increase dementia risk.
For example, high levels of the stress hormone cortisol have been linked to shrinkage of brain regions that are important for memory.
Blood vessel damage has also been observed in both depression and dementia.
One study of more than 10,000 people found that dementia risk was only increased in people who had depression in the ten years before diagnosis.
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