Habits That Might Lower Risk Of Dementia
Dementia is the loss of cognitive functioning — thinking, remembering, and reasoning — to such an extent that it interferes with a person's daily life and activities. Some people with dementia cannot control their emotions, and their personalities may change. Dementia ranges in severity from the mildest stage, when it is just beginning to affect a person's functioning, to the most severe stage, when the person must depend completely on others for basic activities of living.
Dementia is more common as people grow older (about one-third of all people age 85 or older may have some form of dementia) but it is not a normal part of aging. Many people live into their 90s and beyond without any signs of dementia.
Fortunately, there are many habits we can incorporate into our lives to positively impact our chances of having dementia interfere with our peaceful and healthy aging. As is true with any positive habits we undertake, start making these changes today for a healthier tomorrow.
Focus on nutrition - a diet that's high in saturated fat, salt and sugar, and low in fiber, can increase our risk of high blood pressure, high cholesterol, becoming overweight or obese, and type 2 diabetes. Each of these factors increases our chances of developing dementia. Focus our food intake on whole foods, minimally processed foods and foods with as little added salt, sugar and fat as possible.
Lose weight - being overweight or obese can increase our blood pressure and the risk of type 2 diabetes, both of which are linked to a higher risk of Alzheimer's disease and vascular dementia. Keep our weight in the healthy BMI range. If we are overweight or obese, even losing 5% to 10% of the excess weight can help reduce our risk of dementia.
Stay active – Sedentary lifestyle coupled with lack of mental stimulus is not a good combination for us as we age. The onset of dementia, and/or the severity of the disease, can be increased by a lack of activity. Encourage movement and activities that get people outside. Stimulation from simply watching birds fly, trees sway in the wind and rivers flow are great ways to maintain an active mind. Mental focus can be exercised by reading, working puzzles such as crosswords and sudoku games. Any type of music can be a wonderful stimulus as well.
Don’t smoke – if you smoke, quit. This advice should be very short and to the point – smoking makes any health concern worse, including dementia. Stop smoking.
Reduce blood sugar – hyperglycemia is the medical term for high blood sugar (glucose). It's a common problem for people with diabetes. It can affect people with type 1 diabetes and type 2 diabetes, as well as pregnant women with gestational diabetes. To combat hyperglycemia avoid all bottled sodas and fruit juices, no candy or ice cream, avoid breads, sandwiches, donuts and rolls. Also reduce consumption of pastas, chips and potatoes.
Interact with people and animals – keep in touch with loved ones and relatives. Loneliness and social isolation are big worries when it comes to dementia. Quite often a pet is a great addition for an otherwise isolated person. Dogs can be wonderful companions and help keep a person more involved and active.
By following these tips and consistently participating in multiple healthy lifestyle behaviors adults can reap a multitude of benefits, including the potential to reduce cognitive decline associated with aging. There is no better time than right now to implement any, or all, of these healthy habits. Don’t wait to see signs of dementia prior to recommending changes to an aging loved one.