The connection between physiological health and blood circulation has been recognized for ages. The foundation of cognitive performance – brain health – is no exception to this rule. The brain is a voracious consumer of the oxygen and nutrients carried by arterial blood throughout the body. When these crucial nutrients are disrupted, the brain suffers. Memory and other cognitive skills are also affected by this loss.
A preliminary study provides some positive news for people concerned about getting dementia. It turns out that a healthy lifestyle could reduce the risk of dementia.
Researchers discovered that older adults who practiced healthy habits had a decreased risk of acquiring dementia than those who did not, even when a parent or sibling had suffered from the brain disease themselves.
The influence of heredity was not diminished by lifestyle choices. However, in people with a family history of dementia, living healthily appeared to reduce the additional risk of dementia.
These are the six critical health factors that helped lower the risk of dementia:
- Consuming a variety of fruits and vegetables while reducing processed meats and refined grains
- Getting at least 150 minutes per week of moderate-to-vigorous exercise
- Not smoking
- Only drinking in moderation
- Getting between six and nine hours of sleep per night
- Obesity prevention.
Dementia Risk Factors
There are numerous risk factors that have been connected to the onset of dementia.
Risk factors are qualities that appear to have a link to disease development. If these risk factors exist, there is a greater likelihood, but not a guarantee, that the disease will occur. For example, while not everyone who smokes has heart disease, and not everyone who has heart disease smokes, it is well understood that smoking is a significant risk factor for heart disease.
Age is the most important risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias. Although age raises the risk, dementia is not a normal part of the aging process.
There are actually over 20 genes influence a person’s risk of acquiring dementia. The APOE gene was the first to be identified as increasing a person’s risk of acquiring Alzheimer’s disease, and it is still the most powerful risk gene known. There are other deterministic genes that cause dementia, but they are rare – they are estimated to account for less than 1% of dementia cases and induce young-onset dementia, in which symptoms usually appear before the age of 60.
Even when accounting for the fact that women live longer on average, women are more likely than males to have dementia. The causes for this remain unknown.
Modifiable Risk Factors
Although we cannot modify our genes or stop the aging process, there are adjustments we can undertake to minimize our risk of dementia, either as individuals or as a society. There is a growing body of research evidence covering a variety of possibly modifiable risk factors. If we could change all of the risk variables, we could avoid or delay up to 40% of dementia cases.
Although behavioral change is difficult and certain relationships may not be causative, individuals have a tremendous opportunity to minimize their risk of dementia. Many of the risk factors are also shared by noncommunicable diseases as heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and chronic respiratory diseases.
Maintaining physical activity, eating healthy, and participating in social activities all promote good brain function and may lower your risk of acquiring dementia. Keeping your heart healthy, including quitting smoking and drinking excessively, can reduce your risk of dementia and other disorders.
The following are risk factors for dementia, as well as strategies for mitigating them and lowering risk.
Drinking too much alcohol
Drinking more than 21 units of alcohol each week increases the risk of dementia. For simple reference, a standard glass of wine or beer is around 2 units of alcohol. The harmful use of alcohol is a contributing factor in over 200 diseases and injuries. There is a link between problematic alcohol use and a variety of mental and behavioral disorders, noncommunicable diseases, and injuries.
One of the most effective methods to lower your risk of dementia is to engage in regular physical activity. It benefits your heart, circulation, weight, and mental health. Adults should strive for 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity or 75 minutes of strong aerobic activity per week.
Depression is linked to an increased risk of dementia. Depression is a component of the dementia prodrome (a symptom that occurs before the symptoms that are used for diagnosis). It is unclear whether dementia is induced by depression or vice versa; both scenarios are possible.
In any case, managing and treating depression is critical since it is linked to greater impairment, physical ailments, and poorer outcomes for persons with dementia.
Smoking significantly raises your chances of having dementia. You’re also raising your chances of developing other diseases, such as type 2 diabetes, stroke, and lung and other malignancies. It’s never too late to quit smoking; quitting later in life lowers the risk of dementia.
Midlife hypertension (high blood pressure) raises a person’s chance of dementia while also generating other health problems. The only known effective preventive drug for dementia is hypertension medication.
A history of elevated cholesterol is linked to an increased risk of dementia.
Obesity is linked to an increased risk of dementia, especially in middle age. Obesity is also linked to other NCDs and is often treatable by lifestyle adjustments such as diet and physical activity
Diabetes type 2 is a clear risk factor for the development of future dementia. It is unknown whether any specific drug can help with this, but diabetes therapy is crucial for other reasons.
Regularly activating your brain through school, work, or leisure is associated to a lower risk of cognitive (thinking skills and memory) decline and dementia. Check out these brain games for some fun ways of exercising the mind.
Infrequent social interaction
It is well known that social connectivity lowers the risk of dementia. Social interaction improves cognitive reserve or stimulates desirable behaviors. There is little evidence that any particular activity protects against dementia.
Additional Risk Factors
Dementia is substantially more common among people who have hearing loss. Hearing aids appear to lessen the risk. Because hearing loss is one of the most common risk factors, correcting it could have a significant influence on the number of people acquiring dementia.
Injuries to the head
Falls, bicycle, motorbike, and vehicle accidents, military exposures, hockey, football, boxing, and other sports, and violent attacks and weapons are the most common causes of head injuries. To decrease brain injuries, policymakers should use public health and other policy measures.
Non-modifiable Dementia Risk Factors
Genetics/Family History (heredity)
Family history is a significant risk factor. Those who have a dementia-afflicted father, brother, or sister are more likely to develop the condition. If more than one family member has the condition, the risk rises. When diseases run in families, either inheritance (genetics) or environmental factors, or both, may be involved.
Scientists have discovered that genes play a role in dementia. There are two types of genes that determine whether or not a person develops a disease: deterministic genes and risk genes. Dementia genes have been discovered in both groups. Deterministic genes are thought to be responsible for less than 1% of dementia cases (genes that cause a disease, rather than increase the risk of developing a disease).
A number of genes have been uncovered that enhance the likelihood of getting dementia. Although persons with a family history of Alzheimer’s disease are thought to be at a higher risk of having the condition, many people with dementia never develop the disease, and many people without a family history of the disease do.
In most circumstances, predicting a single person’s risk of the condition based solely on family history is impossible. Mutations in the prion protein gene have been found in certain families with fatal familial insomnia, Gerstmann-Sträussler-Scheinker syndrome, and Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, albeit these conditions can occur in people who do not have the gene mutation. Individuals with these mutations are substantially more likely to acquire certain types of dementia.
Abnormal genes have also been linked to FTDP-17, Huntington’s disease, and various other types of dementia. By the time they reach middle age, many persons with Down’s syndrome exhibit behavioral and neurological indicators of dementia.
Age is the most significant known risk factor for Alzheimer’s and other dementias, yet these disorders are not a normal part of aging. While age raises the risk of dementia, it is not a direct cause of the disease.
The condition affects mostly people over the age of 65. Every five years beyond the age of 65, the chance of dementia doubles. After the age of 85, the risk rises to nearly one-third.
Tips for Leading a Brain-healthy Lifestyle
There is currently no proven technique to prevent Alzheimer’s disease. However, there are some factors that may make it less likely. While you may have been advised that all you can do is hope for the best and await a pharmaceutical solution, the truth is far more hopeful.
According to promising studies, you can minimize your risk of Alzheimer’s and other dementias by making a few easy but beneficial lifestyle adjustments. You may be able to prevent dementia symptoms and halt, or even reverse, the deterioration process by maintaining a brain-healthy lifestyle.
Here are some pointers:
1. Increase Your Sleeping Time
Sleep is extremely beneficial to both the body and the mind. The brain stores new information and eliminates hazardous waste while you sleep. Nerve cells restructure and communicate, promoting normal brain function. The body produces chemicals such as proteins and hormones, as well as restores energy and repairs cells.
Unfortunately, the quality of your sleep typically deteriorates as you become older. If you are constantly weary during the day and do not feel like you are getting enough sleep, you should be checked for a curable sleep problem such as sleep apnea. Sleep apnea can be harmful to your brain health and raise your chance of dementia, as well as other health issues like as heart disease and stroke.
2. Consume a More Nutritious Diet
There are numerous research and hypotheses about which dietary choices are beneficial for lowering the risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. A nutritious diet rich in fish, berries, whole grains, and green leafy vegetables may reduce a person’s dementia risk; it may also contribute to a lower risk of obesity and BMI when combined with regular exercise.
Some studies have found a strong correlation between a Mediterranean diet (fish, olive oil, veggies) and better brain function, while others believe that diversity in the types of nutritious foods a person eats and how they’re combined may be even more beneficial.
Doctors, scientists, and general practitioners recommend that the following measures be strictly followed in order to reduce the incidence of dementia:
- Reduce your intake of saturated fat, salt, and trans fat.
- Use olive oil or other monounsaturated fat sources in your cooking.
- Consume a lot of beans and nuts.
- Limit your intake of sugary drinks and sweets.
- Replace red meat with poultry and fish (eat lean cuts of red meat when it is consumed)
- Consume a wide range of veggies and fruits.
- Eat whole grains.
The following articles provide great advice for age based eating:
3. Take Part in Weekly Physical Activities
A combination of aerobic physical activity and muscular training has been proven in studies to improve cognitive performance. Adults should engage in 150-300 minutes of moderate aerobic physical activity per week, or 75-150 minutes of vigorous aerobic physical activity per week, or a combination of the two.
Aerobic physical exercise, such as brisk walking, jogging, or bicycling, improves cardiovascular fitness. Walking briskly, raking the yard, or playing volleyball are examples of moderate physical activity.
Running or jogging, or participating in a high-intensity workout class, are examples of vigorous physical activity. Several activities can be done at either moderate or vigorous levels of intensity (e.g. cycling or swimming).
Adults should also do muscle-strengthening activities at least twice a week. Muscle strengthening exercises, which can include resistance training and weight lifting, increase muscle strength, power, and endurance.
Physical activity for older individuals (65 and up) should include muscle-strengthening, cardiovascular and balance training exercises. In order to improve the quality of life and prevent falls in older individuals, balance training is a key component.
Maintain heart health and keep an eye on risk factors for cardiovascular disease (obesity, diabetes and high blood pressure)
Participating in a healthy lifestyle in old age, particularly by being physically active and eating a nutritious food, can help lower the risk of cardiovascular risk factors connected with cognitive decline and dementia. It is also critical to have screening tests on a regular basis to monitor for risk factors related with heart health (and cognitive function).
The following screenings can help you determine when and if you need to take additional precautions to lower your risk:
- Waist circumference and body weight measurements can help you or your provider determine if you are at a higher risk of developing diseases related with cognitive decline and dementia.
- High blood sugar levels increase your risk of developing prediabetes and type II diabetes, which can lead to stroke, heart disease, and cognitive decline.
- While high blood pressure, especially in mid-life, can sometimes have no visible symptoms, it increases your risk of cognitive decline, heart disease and stroke.
4. Participate in Social Activities
Participation in social activities may also minimize the risk of cognitive decline and aid in the prevention of dementia. Adults can engage in a wide range of social activities, including those that integrate other lifestyle practices (e.g. community exercise classes). Adults and older adults can become socially involved in a variety of ways, including:
- joining a fitness club, group, or community center
- volunteering with a local organization, church, or charity
- dancing. This is a terrific way to socialize, get some exercise, and use your brain and body to learn new moves.
- traveling – also liked in groups and frequently includes a lot of walking or other physical activities
- a stroll with friends or family
- arranging for game nights with pals
- classes in singing or dance
- reconnect with old friends
- friendly chats with your neighbors
Adults can reap a variety of benefits by following these suggestions and continuously engaging in many healthy lifestyle practices, including the ability to minimize cognitive loss associated with aging.
So, Does Lifestyle Affect Dementia?
All of this can be summed up in a single phrase: practice self-care.
Speak with someone you can confide in and be free with. Put excellent things in your body. Rest. Relax. Avoid isolating yourself. Get some Vitamin D by going outside for some sun, with sunscreen on, of course.
Depression, according to a study, may physically change your brain, thus prioritizing your health through self-care measures should always be at the top of your priority list.
Although dementia cannot be prevented or cured, the decisions you make in your forties can assist to keep your brain healthy as you age. According to research, people who live a “brain-healthy” lifestyle had a lower risk of developing dementia later in life.
Living a brain-healthy lifestyle is especially crucial as you reach middle age, as this is when brain changes begin. A brain-healthy lifestyle is founded on scientific evidence for caring for your brain, body, and heart, as well as your overall health, in order to lower your risk of dementia.
Dementia-causing brain changes can begin decades before symptoms show. This means that it is critical to take care of your brain throughout your life. It’s never too late – or too soon – to start living a brain-healthy lifestyle, because brain function can be enhanced at any age.