Dementia and Alzheimer’s disease are life-changing conditions that can be massive detriments to your overall life, especially as they progress. As the conditions continue to develop, you’ll likely need assistance with many day-to-day activities. While there are potential treatment options for dementia and Alzheimer’s, there is currently no cure. This leaves prevention, and while you can’t guarantee prevention — we’re not even sure what causes dementia yet — there are a few documented lifestyle changes you can make that are believed to lower your chances of developing dementia.
Stay Connected and Active
One of the best things you can do as you age is to stay connected with your friends and family. Senior isolation is one of the greatest, most insidious dangers facing many seniors in the United States. Research shows isolated or lonely seniors are more likely to experience physical decline, develop addiction, or suffer elder abuse. More to the point of this article, social isolation is heavily linked with an increase in likelihood of dementia. Luckily, these days, it’s easier than ever to stay connected. Not only can seniors take part in family activities, they can travel on family or group trips, get a pet, or start using social media. In today’s hyperconnected world, it’s easier than ever to make new friends at any age.
Keep Mentally Active
Staying connected can also help keep you mentally active, too, which is another great way of lowering your chances of developing dementia. One of our key tips on staying mentally sharp, in general, is to keep your mind active. Playing brain games or working on puzzles has been shown to combat Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. Mentally challenging activities like reading, writing, or other hobbies are also effective at lowering your risk. There are many ways that you can stay active after retirement to keep yourself from letting your brain get too inactive, raising your risk of dementia.
These activities can also combat stress. Sustained stress can actually be incredibly detrimental to your overall health, but it is particularly bad for your mental and brain health. Stress can increase your risk of dementia by essentially damaging your brain by overloading it. Stress can damage your immune system, release cortisol, and lead to more severe conditions, all which can lead to dementia. Two of these conditions that are known to increase your risk of Alzheimer’s or dementia are anxiety and depression.
Healthy Body, Healthy Mind
Your physical health is tied to your risks of developing Alzheimer’s and dementia. Studies found a connection between risk factors in cardiovascular disease like high blood pressure and cholesterol or diabetes and an increased risk of dementia. In general, leading a healthier lifestyle with exercise and a smart diet may be effective at staving off Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, too. Regular physical exercise like walking or jogging is also well established to lower your risk, making it an excellent way for seniors to get fit and help avoid dementia.
Diets like the Mediterranean Diet are excellent options since recent studies link them with lowered risks of Alzheimer’s disease. Not only is the diet rich in antioxidants and nutrients that are great for your brain, it also combats numerous risk factors of dementia development. This includes cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, and diabetes. No wonder it’s considered one of the best diets out there right now.
Getting enough sleep and recharging your body and mind may also help lower your risk of dementia. Currently, there is an established link between poor sleep and dementia, but there’s uncertainty over which causes which. But, evidence continues to grow that show that getting enough sleep can lower your chances of having Alzheimer’s later in life. Don’t oversleep, either, though, because one study found that sleeping over an average of 9 hours each night may actually increase your odds of having dementia later.
Smoking is one of the single worst things you can do to your body. It increases your risks of cancer, ages you prematurely, and ruins your health. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) doesn’t mince any words when it states that “smoking harms nearly every organ of the body, causes many diseases, and reduces the health of smokers in general.” In regards to this article, smoking is listed as one of the single largest non-age-related contributors to the development of dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease. In fact, smoking may increase your risk of dementia by as much as 30 to 50 percent. These findings are backed up by numerous studies that found significantly increased risk from smoking, though what exactly caused this is up for debate, partially because there’s so many chemicals found in cigarettes.
Monitor Your Condition
Keeping a consistent eye on your mental state is a great way to catch any signs of Alzheimer’s or dementia early. Early diagnosis is essential to developing a treatment plan and allowing you to prepare. If you have Medicare, many of these early stage tests and assessments are covered, allowing you to get the tests without worrying about affording them. When it comes to dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease, early diagnosis is so important, so anything that can help you to notice the signs early is equally so. Continually watch for the signs in yourself or loved ones and get your annual Medicare Wellness Visit to get screened for early symptoms of dementia.
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One of the reasons Alzheimer’s and dementia are so difficult to fully prevent or cure is because we aren’t 100 percent certain what causes all forms of dementia (especially Alzheimer’s) except for “damage to brain cells.” But, by following these suggestions, you can lower your risk of developing dementia or Alzheimer’s by as much as 60 percent. For now, any healthy change you can make that may prevent this debilitating set of diseases is worth it.
Alzheimer’s Society — Risk factors for dementia