No one wants to suffer with dementia in old age — or for that matter, at any age. Are there steps one can take to minimize the risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease?
Leanne O’Neil of INDY Neurofeedback says, “The short answer is yes, researchers believe so. But more studies are needed to uncover what causes dementia in some people and not in others. It helps to understand the complicated nature of the development of dementia. In the majority of cases, dementia and Alzheimer’s, like other relatively common chronic conditions, develop as a result of complex interactions between heredity, physical health and the environment in which you live.”
Researchers have been trying to parse out which of the interactions including age, genetics (heredity), environment, lifestyle, and any and all coexisting medical conditions, might be the most important.
Researchers note that some risk factors, such as age and DNA, cannot be changed, but other risk factors most certainly can be minimized. This is especially true when you consider unhealthy habits such as smoking or heavy drinking, which can be curtailed or stopped. Another lifestyle change to reduce dementia risk is exercise. Lack of exercise spells trouble, both in the physical body (atrophy of muscles) and the mind (exercising the body also benefits the brain). Ongoing research in multiple areas may lead to new ways to detect those at highest risk.
Ongoing research in multiple areas may lead to new ways to detect those at highest risk. Meanwhile, here’s what we know that you can do to help mitigate your risk of developing dementia and/or Alzheimer’s disease:
- Do not use anticholinergic drugs (Here is a LINK to the November 6, 2018 blog that addresses this issue.)
- Don’t smoke (or if you do, quit as soon as possible).
- Keep active and exercise regularly. Even walking counts.
- Maintain a healthy weight. If you are overweight, begin to make changes to your diet and exercise regimen to lose weight gradually and permanently.
- Eat a healthy, balanced diet full of fruits and vegetables.
- Drink very moderately, if at all.
- Keep cholesterol and blood pressure at a healthy level.
- Keep regular social connections and interactions strong.
- Learn something new every day. Travel. Try new foods. Take up a new hobby or activity. Intellectual activity is very important.
Although we are a long way from knowing everything about why some of get dementia and others do not, we are learning more and more all the time.
Take charge of your health! Make the changes noted above now to stay ahead of deteriorating brain health – and be as healthy as possible as you age.