With about 5.6 million American older adults suffering from dementia, this is one of the more common illnesses seen in those aged above 65. However, these memory loss illnesses do not have to be a part of the aging process.
Although dementia cannot be prevented or cured, keeping good habits and making healthy brain lifestyle choices can minimize dementia risk. By following the following tips, not only is the risk of dementia reduced, but your loved ones are also protecting their overall health and reducing the risks of other chronic or cognitive conditions.
What Are Dementia Risk Factors?
This refers to factors that will increase the chances of developing the disease. While some can be controlled, others cannot.
Controllable factors would include lifestyle habits such as one’s diet and how active they are. For instance, changes in lifestyle and/or medication contribute to a person’s risk of heart disease. On the other hand, uncontrollable factors would include age, genes, race, and gender. Age is known to be the biggest risk factor for Alzheimer’s and other dementias. For other factors, research has shown that certain races, namely African Americans, American Indians, and Alaska Natives, tend to have higher rates of dementia.
Tips and Strategies for Mitigating Dementia Risk
- Stay Active
Physical activity brings many benefits, including decreased risk of cognitive decline. Aim to get 30 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity a day, five days a week. Everyone’s physical condition is different, so it is important that your loved ones have an individual plan adjusted to their needs and capabilities.
Should doing the exercises at home get boring, there are many specialized fitness classes for dementia that they can participate in where they can meet new friends and do the exercises together!
- Eat Healthily
Having a healthy, balanced diet can not only addresses other health conditions such as heart disease and diabetes but also build cognitive resilience.
Your loved ones should try implementing a memory care diet; a well-studied one to follow is the MIND (Mediterranean and DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay) diet. This would mean the following changes to your diet:
- Reduce sugary foods, processed foods, and meats
- Have a variety of different colored foods: For instance, blue and purple ones like purple cabbage and blueberries are full of anti-oxidants. Meanwhile, greens like spinach and broccoli are good for the brain, bones, and vision.
- Sleep Well
Sleep is important for both the mind and body. Studies have shown a correlation between poor sleep quality and cognitive impairment. As such, having sufficient hours of sleep may help prevent neurogenerative diseases such as dementia. Try to get 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night. Should your loved ones face trouble sleeping, consult your doctor.
- Cognitive Stimulation
Engaging in tasks that involved education and require thought and focus might be helpful for reducing the risk of cognitive decline. This would include reading, watching the news, or playing strategy games.
- Stay Social
Staying connected with people prevents loneliness and social isolation, which have both been linked to cognitive decline. Your loved ones can stay social through volunteer events, engaging in social activities like fitness classes or interest clubs, or even just chatting via calls and texts with friends and family.