Activities To Help Prevent Dementia
24th August 2017
Dementia is considered to be the leading cause of death for elderly people in the UK. The Office for National Statistics report for 2017 states that 1 in 6 people over the age of 80 are diagnosed with dementia. As of now, over 850,000 people are living with dementia, which is expected to rise to 2 million by 2050. Additionally, 70% of individuals who are looked after in Care Homes have dementia or memory difficulties that severely impact on their daily lives.
The cost of care for dementia patients can often exceed the combined cost of treatment and care for cancer, stroke and heart disease. Research continues relentlessly for a cure and to pinpoint the specific causes of dementia.
Given the damage that dementia can have on individuals, their families, and the high cost of care, we can adopt a positive approach that will help reduce the risk of dementia.
Research has shown that the risk of dementia decreases by making some simple yet effective lifestyle changes may help prevent dementia, slow it down or even reverse some of the symptoms. In the simplest of terms, dementia affects the way that messages are relayed to and from the brain resulting in some or all of the following symptoms:
Education Learning New Things
As we said earlier, education keeps the brain busy and may prevent dementia from occurring. A study published in the Neuroepidemiology magazine confirmed this after evaluating more than 11,000 memory tests from older Europeans. The results were simple education can combat the cognitive decline to a specific point.
Education helps give people a larger cognitive reserve. This makes experiencing the effects of age-related thinking abilities significantly easier for people above 50. According to the study, an extra year of education can help people recall one additional word in recall tests years later. It doesnt sound much but it is way better than the reverse of loosing one word a year.
Pillar #: Healthy Diet
In Alzheimers disease, inflammation and insulin resistance injure neurons and inhibit communication between brain cells. Alzheimers is sometimes described as diabetes of the brain, and a growing body of research suggests a strong link between metabolic disorders and the signal processing systems. By adjusting your eating habits, however, you can help reduce inflammation and protect your brain.
Manage your weight. Extra pounds are a risk factor for Alzheimers disease and other types of dementia. A major study found that people who were overweight in midlife were twice as likely to develop Alzheimers down the line, and those who were obese had three times the risk. Losing weight can go a long way to protecting your brain.
Cut down on sugar.Sugary foods and refined carbs such as white flour, white rice, and pasta can lead to dramatic spikes in blood sugar which inflame your brain. Watch out for hidden sugar in all kinds of packaged foods from cereals and bread to pasta sauce and low or no-fat products.
Enjoy a Mediterranean diet. Several epidemiological studies show that eating a Mediterranean diet dramatically reduces the risk of decline from cognitive impairment and Alzheimers disease. That means plenty of vegetables, beans, whole grains, fish and olive oiland limited processed food.
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Look After Your Heart
Research shows that people who have high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, or are obese, particularly around middle age, have a greater risk of developing dementia later in life. Leaving these conditions untreated can lead to damaged blood vessels in the brain, which in turn damages brain cells and leads to impaired thinking functions.
Although there are no guarantees that keeping your heart healthy will prevent dementia, you will give yourself the best chance of avoiding or delaying dementia.
Promisingly, studies have shown that the treatment of high blood pressure reduces that risk. Other studies indicate that treating high cholesterol and diabetes may also reduce the risk of developing dementia, although more research is needed in this area.
It is recommended you have regular check-ups to assess your:
How Diabetes Drives Dementia Risk
Diabetes is linked to the degeneration of small blood vessels as well as strokes which are in turn risk factors of dementia. It is possible beta-amyloid plaques and tau tangles, the biomarkers of Alzheimers, play a role in high blood sugar levels, Larson said. But more research is needed to pinpoint biological mechanisms linking diabetes and dementia beyond those related to blood flow.
Most people have type 2 diabetes, which leads to a two-fold increased risk of developing Alzheimers. As cells fail to respond to insulin the hormone that manages blood sugar levels the body produces more insulin, which in turn, leads to overly high levels of blood sugar.
Heres what you can do: Researchers warn that type 2 diabetes and Alzheimers are reaching epidemic proportions, as they urge people to manage their stress, get a good nights sleep, maintain a balanced weight, eat a healthy diet with less sugary beverages, stay active and exercise regularly.
Read more about past research on the link between the brains metabolic function, diabetes and dementia
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What Are Standard Fall Prevention Interventions
Keep the patients personal possessions within patient safe reach. Have sturdy handrails in patient bathrooms, room, and hallway. Place the hospital bed in low position when a patient is resting in bed raise bed to a comfortable height when the patient is transferring out of bed. Keep hospital bed brakes locked.
Dementia Prevention: Reduce Your Risk Starting Now
Dementia is defined by loss of memory, problems with thinking and reasoning, and an inability to carry on with work and life activities independently. There are several kinds of dementia. Alzheimers disease is the most common, but for up to a third of people with dementia, even some of those diagnosed with Alzheimers, vascular disease is a major cause.
The good news is you can lower your risk of dementia. A Johns Hopkins neurologist, explains how.
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Pillar #: Mental Stimulation
Its important to continue learning new things and challenging your brain throughout life. Whether youre looking to prevent the onset of dementia or delay its progression, when it comes to your brain the key is to use it or lose it. In the groundbreaking NIH ACTIVE study, older adults who received as few as 10 sessions of mental training not only improved their cognitive functioning in daily activities in the months after the training, but continued to show long-lasting improvements 10 years later.
Activities involving multiple tasks or requiring communication, interaction, and organization offer the greatest benefits. Set aside time each day to stimulate your brain:
Learn something new. Study a foreign language, practice a musical instrument, or learn to paint or sew. One of the best ways to take up a new hobby is to sign up for a class and then schedule regular times for practicing. The greater the novelty, complexity, and challenge, the greater the benefit.
Raise the bar for an existing activity. If youre not keen on learning something new, you can still challenge your brain by increasing your skills and knowledge of something you already do. For example, if you can play the piano and dont want to learn a new instrument, commit to learning a new piece of music or improving how well you play your favorite piece.
Follow the road less traveled. Take a new route or eat with your non-dominant hand. Vary your habits regularly to create new brain pathways.
Get Moving For The Mind
Without a doubt, exercise has a positive impact on short- and long-term brain health. Moderate to high intensity exercise like boxing training has been proven to boost brain power and may even delay serious neurodegenerative diseases like Dementia. The physical and mental challenges posed by a non-contact boxing workout may make it even more beneficial to the brain than other routine exercises like walking or running.
Dr. Brody Magid reiterates that the most difficult part is getting past the starting point and developing a self-care routine that works for your own lifestyle.
I think its important to use as it functions best for you, explains Dr. Brody Magid. Its about a larger balancing act how do you maintain a healthy lifestyle without adding too much pressure.
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Say Yes To Having Good Social Conditions
Do not stay at home watching TV hour after hour. Go out with friends and family, enjoy laughing, funny jokes and new experiences, no matter how old you are.
Get the courage to take that trip, get out of your routine and sign up for a new course you want to take. These are all wonderful stimuli that will boost your cognitive reserve, and it will help you enjoy a healthier, happier brain.
How Loneliness And Social Isolation Can Lead To Dementia
Forming social connections can enhance a persons cognitive reserve. In other words, paying attention to others and interacting with them keeps our brains active and healthy, Livingston said.
Additionally, some studies find the opposite social isolation may increase peoples risk of dementia. One study shows that people who are single lifelong and those who are widowed are more likely to have dementia compared to married couples.
Heres what you can do:Livingston suggested seeing and talking to people, walking with others and chatting over tea, coffee or food activities you may find pleasure in doing with others. She reminded us of an important point amid the coronavirus shutdown, a public health crisis which has left many feeling socially isolated: Try to be physically distant but not socially distant.
Read more about past research on the link between social connection and dementia
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How Do You Increase Happy Brain Chemicals
Your brain cells communicate with one another by releasing chemical messengers like dopamine and serotonin. These neurotransmitters play a crucial role in digestion, sexual health, bone metabolism, regulating emotions and how we experience pleasure.
How do you help your body release more of the chemicals in your brain that make you happy? Do things that feed your soul. Laugh more often, enjoy time with loved ones, spend more time in nature, try out a new recipe.
Finding ways to incorporate activities that engage mental focus and attentionlike a 1000-piece puzzlewill also give you a boost of happy brain chemicals. Before you know it, you’ll develop the habits of a happy brain.
Pillar #: Social Engagement
Human beings are highly social creatures. We dont thrive in isolation, and neither do our brains. Staying socially engaged may even protect against symptoms of Alzheimers disease and dementia in later life, so make developing and maintaining a strong network of friends a priority.
You dont need to be a social butterfly or the life of the party, but you do need to regularly connect face-to-face with someone who cares about you and makes you feel heard. While many of us become more isolated as we get older, its never too late to meet others and develop new friendships:
- Join a club or social group.
- Visit your local community center or senior center.
- Take group classes .
- Get to know your neighbors.
- Make a weekly date with friends.
- Get out .
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Brain Risk Factors That Can Be Controlled
- mental activity regularly challenging your brain with mentally stimulating activities through education, occupation or leisure is linked with lower risk of cognitive decline and dementia
- social activity participating in social activities and being connected with your community, family and friends is linked with a lower risk of dementia.
The Scale Of The Challenge
Dementia is an umbrella term that describes the symptoms that occur when the brain is affected by certain diseases or conditions. Symptoms may include memory loss and difficulties with thinking, problem-solving or language.
Dementia is a global issue. There are 47.5 million people worldwide living with dementia . This is predicted to rise to more than 150 million by 2050. In the UK, over 1 million people could have dementia by 2025. By 2050, this figure will exceed 2 million.
The estimated numbers will become a reality unless additional public health interventions are put in place.
Already an estimated 21 million people in England have a close friend or family member living with dementia. Directly or indirectly, it will soon affect every one of us.
Dementia is the most feared health condition for people over the age of 55 according to a survey by Alzheimers Research UK. More feared than any other major disease, including cancer and diabetes.
The Prime Minister has highlighted tackling dementia as a key priority. He describes the condition as one of the biggest global health and social care challenges, as big as those posed by cancer, heart disease and HIV or AIDS.
Dementia is recognised in The NHS 5 Year Forward View in relation to getting serious about prevention, supporting those with dementia, supporting carers and developing new care models.
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The Importance Of Vascular Health
At present, researchers are still trying to understand the causes of Alzheimers disease and how to treat it.
But, vascular causes of dementia are another story. Vascular disease can cause or worsen dementia. Diseased blood vessels, along with high blood pressure, can cause tiny areas of bleeding or blocked blood flow to the brain silent strokes that may not even cause noticeable symptoms.
But when these small areas of brain injury happen over and over again, a person can develop problems with memory, gait, balance and other brain functions. Researchers are exploring the role of vascular disease in the development of Alzheimers dementia in particular, but its not yet clear if or how this occurs.
Taking steps to improve the health of your blood vessels involves lifestyle changes. Since brain changes can start decades before dementia symptoms appear, the earlier you begin preserving your vascular health, the better for your brain.
Heres a bonus: Improving blood vessel health helps you avoid stroke, heart attack and other serious diseases.
It’s been estimated that one in three cases of dementia is preventable. You cant do anything right now to stop or reverse the underlying mechanisms of Alzheimers disease, but you can do something about hypertension and vascular disease risk factors.
What Builds Cognitive Reserve:
- Cultural Involvement
Of course, a solid cognitive reserve can only help but cant completely prevent damage when serious stress and trauma do occur. When this happens, exercise is an essential part of the recovery process.
There is a tremendous amount of data to support the benefit of exercise in brain recovery from trauma, explains Dr. Brody Magid. Lets say you have a stroke, traumatic brain injury, or a tumor some cells die or get injured, but areas of the brain remain intact. What exercise does is challenge the parts of the brain that arent damaged to compensate.
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Keeping Your Brain Fit: How Exercise Can Prevent Dementia
Exercise holds incredible short- and long-term benefits for the brain. Studies have shown that moderate to high intensity exercise can improve brain function and protect it even as we age. In fact, exercise may be the most powerful preventative medicine against Alzheimers, a common form of Dementia.
FightCamp wanted to delve a little deeper into how exercise particularly boxing helps our brains stay healthy and even stave off these devastating conditions. We spoke to neuropsychologist Dr. Julie Brody Magid, Clinical Director of the McLean Memory Disorders Assessment Clinic and an Instructor in Psychology at Harvard Medical School in the Department of Psychiatry.
I run a memory clinic and exercise is one of our first recommendations for people, says Dr. Brody Magid. We prescribe five days a week of 30 minutes of moderately rigorous exercise, as approved by their primary physician.
Dr. Brody Magid explains that making healthier lifestyle choices, which includes exercise, is truly one of the most important things people of all ages can do as an investment for their future. This is an important way we focus on preventative care, she says.
Looking at this more closely, the physical and mental exercise of non-contact boxing training arguably make it an ideal choice for maximizing this investment. The intensity of the workout combined with the focus required for complex boxing drills may have enormous benefits for the brain.
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Smoking And Dementia Risk
Smoking is likely to increase risk of dementia as it causes problems with blood vessel function meaning that a person is more likely to have small strokes or small bleeds in the brain, and it may also be that chemicals in tobacco smoke cause inflammation, Sommerlad said.
Heres what you can do: Even if youre a smoker, its not too late to stop smoking. After all, older adults who stop smoking may substantially reduce their risk of dementia. Get help to stop smoking, Livingston said, such as by using nicotine patches.
Read more about past research on the link between smoking and dementia
Risk Factors For Dementia & Alzheimers
Scientists know that genetics, environment, and lifestyle affect your risk of developing Alzheimers disease and dementia.
The factors that put you at higher risk include:
- Age: As you get older, youre at greater risk of developing dementia and Alzheimers.
- Genetics: If you have a family member with dementia, you are more likely to have dementia, too. Additionally, having certain versions of genes, like apolipoprotein E 4 , increases your risk of developing Alzheimers.
- Education: People with less education have a higher chance of getting Alzheimers.
- High risk for cardiovascular disease: The same factors that affect your heart health, such as high blood pressure and heart disease, also increase your Alzheimers risk.
- Head trauma: Youre more likely to develop Alzheimers if you suffer a head injury that makes you lose consciousness.
- Alcohol abuse: Patients with alcohol-use disorder are more likely to have impaired cognition and develop Alzheimers disease.
- Sleep issues: Older adults who experience constant interrupted sleep experience Alzheimers disease more frequently.
- Poor diet: Eating the wrong foods can make it more likely that youll develop dementia or Alzheimers.
If you have one or more of these risk factors, you are not destined to have Alzheimers. There are still things you can do to lower your risk and prevent disease.
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