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The NSPA Blog

Your Lifestyle and Dementia

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Posted on October 2nd, 2017 by Sally Perkins, under Alzheimer's and Dementia, Patient Advocacy, Take Charge, Tips & Resources

Taking Action to Prevent Dementia: Your Lifestyle Choices

Alzheimer’s disease or dementia is one of the leading illnesses in the United States amongst older people.  Approximately 5.3 million over 65 is affected  – roughly one in ten. Because of the aging population, this is only likely to grow.  Deaths from other illnesses such as heart disease have decreased with advances in medical care.  However, there is currently no cure for dementia. There are certain activities and lifestyle choices which can help to prevent or slow the decline.  Early assessment and diagnosis can help to implement these sooner.

Older man

Photo Credit:
León Department, Nicaragua

What is dementia?

Dementia affects the brain and how messages and signals are relayed around the body. One of the most common symptoms is trouble with memory.  This can affect a person’s ability to remember people or events, to complete daily tasks such as eating and personal hygiene, and communication skills both in language and following a conversation. Getting the best care for your condition and having an advocate on your side to push for this when you may not be able to yourself is really important; as is trying to promote a healthy brain and body through diet and lifestyle to combat the decline of dementia.

Action points: diet

Eating healthily to help prevent dementia includes foods high in minerals, antioxidants, and omega-3 oils.  These foods help to reduce inflammation and promote repair. This means lots of fresh fruit and vegetables, particularly dark leafy greens and berries, and beans and pulses to provide protein and fiber. Oily fish and natural fats provide the omega-3 oils. Avoiding processed foods and refined carbohydrates is a good general rule.  Try preparing meals from scratch so that you know exactly what is going in.

Making a change: exercise

Regular exercise is important for everyone throughout their whole lives.  At little as one hour a week can help to reduce your risk of dementia by 50%. The exercise doesn’t need to be strenuous or difficult: simply walking round the block or to the shop instead of driving is beneficial, and a gentle pilates or yoga class can help to maintain muscle strength. Exercise helps to stimulate the brain and exercise neural pathways, as well as releasing good hormones and promoting personal motivation.

Keeping up the connections

Maintaining a healthy social life is also very important as we age, as it helps to stimulate the brain and provide a good support network. Join local groups of likeminded people to attend events and attractions or head out further afield, and to promote commitment and motivation to your exercise goals, joining a sports club or class is an excellent choice. Make sure to stay in touch with existing family and friends, setting dates and times for phone calls or visits can also help you to keep track of time.

Exercising your brain

Reading is an excellent activity for mental stimulation, and is also greatly relaxing in offering an escape from everyday life. Try your hand at mind games such as crosswords, sudoku, and other logic puzzles or word games. Jigsaw puzzles and board or card games also help to engage the mind and promote links in the brain.

Fitting in these activities needn’t be a chore: one outing can tick several boxes, such as joining an exercise class to also get social interaction, or having dinner and boardgames with friends for the evening promoting healthy eating, mental stimulation, and social connections. While we can’t totally prevent dementia, maintaining a healthy lifestyle can have significant impact on reducing the chances of developing it.


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