The chances of a family member or someone you know getting dementia is high. So it’s understandable if you want to learn how to reduce your risk of dementia.
According to the World Health Organization around 50 million people have dementia worldwide. There are around 5 million dementia sufferers in the USA and around 1 million in the UK with numbers expected to increase dramatically over the next 20 years.
Knowing the devastation the disease can cause, it’s important to learn how to reduce your risk of dementia.
Your risk increases once over the age of 65, and even more from age 85. However it’s widely believed the cause of dementia is due to lifestyle choices. While there is currently no cure for dementia, research shows there are ways we can reduce our risk.
What Foods Reduce The Risk Of Dementia?
- leafy greens
- oily fish
The brain needs fuel. It needs a combination of lean proteins, healthy fats, fruit, vegetables and a number of vitamins and minerals.
Your risk increases by consuming foods which are processed, high sugar content, high in saturated fat, red meat, fast food. Other contributors to increasing your risk include smoking, alcohol and inactivity.
When your diet consists of too many complex carbohydrates, polyunsaturated fats and processed foods it increases the toxins in the body. This leads to inflammation and a build up of plaques in the brain, resulting in impaired cognitive function.
So if you want to know how to reduce your risk of dementia, these are the most essential ingredients:
There has been a long connection between neurological disorders and vitamin B deficiency. Vitamins B6, B9 and B12 play a key roll in cell metabolism, DNA and protein synthesis. They can be found in eggs, fish, meat, milk, and vegetables.
Inflammation and the build up of toxins are thought to play a key role in the development of dementia. It is therefore essential that our diet consists of antioxidants to protect the brain from harmful substances.
Antioxidants include Vitamins C and E. You can find these in nuts, seeds, broccoli, oranges, blackcurrants and strawberries.
Omega 3 is polyunsaturated fatty acids which cannot be produced naturally in the body, meaning it is essential we include it in our diet.
Polyunsaturated fats are important for effective brain cell membrane functioning. Omega 3 can be found in oily fish such as salmon, mackerel and sardines.
While the evidence suggests these foods can reduce the risk, it does not say to completely eliminate foods such as red meat or chicken.
Foods such as leafy greens, legumes, beans and nuts should be consumed daily. Oily fish and meat a few times a week, but look to either cut out or reduce to less than once a week foods high in saturated fat or sugar, according to the Mayo Clinic.
There is evidence to suggest that a Mediterranean diet is the most effective at reducing the risk of dementia.
Research suggests that the diet can be associated with lower levels of mental decline including memory and thinking.
It is thought that the high levels of antioxidants consumed in the Mediterranean diet may help protect brain cells from damage caused by Alzheimer’s disease.
Some research suggests high levels of cholesterol can contribute to memory and thinking problems. The Mediterranean diet helps significantly reduce cholesterol.
If you want to know how to reduce your risk of dementia, a lot of research supports that this form of diet could help.
Does Exercise Reduce Your Risk Of Dementia?
When looking at how to reduce your risk of dementia, physical exercise is thought to be one of the most effective ways.
According to the Alzheimer’s Society, the level of physical exercise in middle age significantly affects your risk of dementia in later life.
Regular exercise can reduce your risk of developing dementia by 11%. One study assessed five behaviours: smoking, alcohol intake, exercise, healthy diet, and exercise had the largest impact in terms of reducing dementia risk.
All forms of exercise will not have the same effect. It is thought that heart healthy exercise such as aerobic exercise has the greatest effect on reducing your risk of dementia.
It is thought exercise that improves vascular health can help lower your risk, as it increases blood flow to the brain. This supplies your brain with more oxygen and nutrients, reducing harmful effects of toxins and strengthening brain tissue.
Many people have seen elderly relatives contract dementia despite living healthy, active lives. However after a significant reduction in aerobic activity due to old age, they have then been found to develop dementia.
Can Medication Affect Your Risk Of Dementia?
There is a concern that some medications could increase your risk of dementia.
One study published in the British Medical Journal looks at how medications with anticholinergic effects could heighten your risk of dementia.
Anticholinergic drugs block a chemical messenger called acetylcholine which acts as a neurotransmitter sending messages from nerve cells to other cells. It affects muscle activity and also affects memory and learning.
According to Harvard Medical School up to half of older adults use medication that have some form of anticholinergic effects.
The study looked at over 300,000 adults aged 65 and over and compared the medication of those who were diagnosed with dementia, and those that did not suffer from the disease.
The results are quite shocking. Those taking medication from some anticholinergic effects were 11% more likely to go on to suffer from dementia.
For the drugs known to have greater anticholinergic effects, the risk was 30% higher!
Whilst some drugs such as antihistamines had no effect on the risk of dementia, others used to treat dementia, bladder problems and Parkinson’s disease had a large risk of leading to dementia.
Should you be worried?
Whilst this study is cause for concern, it does not 100% mean using these drugs will lead to dementia. It isn’t entirely clear whether other lifestyle factors such as diet, alcohol or smoking have played a part.
Depression is also a symptom of dementia and it isn’t clear whether these people had dementia first or depression first.
Given our ageing populations and the huge numbers of us that rely on medications on a daily basis, it is concerning that we are unknowingly causing cognitive damage.
If you want to know how to reduce your risk of dementia, being aware of your medication could be a good start. However the evidence is not 100% certain, and may not be worth risking other health problems by not taking the medication.
Do Brain Health Supplements Help Reduce The Risk Of Dementia?
Brain health supplements are also known as nootropics. Nootropics, or smart drugs are often used by professionals and students to help them focus and retain information. They are cognitive enhancers used to boost memory, and improve concentration.
According to Menshealth.com 11% of college students take nootropics.
If you were looking at how to reduce your risk of dementia, you may think taking nootropics could be a good option.
However, there are no scientific studies that can prove that nootropic supplements actually work. The individual ingredients have been known to provide benefits, but there is limited research to prove a nootropic supplement works.
These are quite new supplements and results may take a long time to prove.
Beware of false claims!
You may be tempted to load up on nootropics to help reduce your risk of dementia. The FDA has had enough of false selling and has taken action against some nootropic supplement companies for falsely claiming their supplements could prevent dementia.
These products have not been approved by the FDA and their is no proof they could actually prevent dementia.
Important Statistics On Dementia
According to Alzheimer’s Disease International:
- Someone in the world develops dementia every 3 seconds
- There are currently over 50 million people living with dementia
- By 2050 it is expected there will be 130 million people living with dementia
- In developed countries only 20-50% of sufferers are diagnosed and in care.
There are 5 main types of dementia, these are:
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Dementia with Lewy bodies
- Vascular dementia
- Frontotemporal dementia
- Mixed dementia