Preventative Guide: Dementia
Dementia is a syndrome characterized by symptoms that are associated with an ongoing decline in brain functioning. Common symptoms include memory loss, decreased thinking speed, impaired mental sharpness & quickness, loss of language, impaired understanding, impaired judgment, depressed mood, and difficulties carrying out daily activities. These symptoms can begin developing up to three decades before the first signs of cognitive problems appear. This slow manifestation implies that reducing your risk of developing dementia should be a focus of anyone at any age.
Aging is the most significant risk factor for dementia and can't be changed. However, there are lots of action steps you can take to reduce your risk. It’s up to you to make the changes.
High blood pressure (hypertension)
Type 2 diabetes
Midlife hearing loss
Though aging and genetic predisposition for dementia cannot be controlled, they only account for a small percentage of overall risk, and effective strategies can help maximize resilience to these factors. It's never too late to develop good habits and improve your diet and brain health.
The interventions described below should delay dementia for many people and prevent the onset for others. This is an enormous achievement as it can enable many more people to reach the end of their life without developing any signs of dementia.
Helps prevent the onset of dementia by decreasing the common risk factors. Implementing mediterranean-style cuisine reduces inflammation and manages blood sugar levels. The diet contains high amounts of antioxidants and protects nerve cells. There is also a heavy focus on fresh, whole, seasonal foods.
Food sources: dark leafy green vegetables, non-starchy vegetables, cold-water fish, nuts, berries, beans, whole grains, organic poultry, and olive oil.
Omega-3 Fatty Acid Foods
Omega-3 fatty acids reduce inflammation in the brain and promote the growth of new brain cells. Consuming these foods lowers the risk of developing dementia.
Excellent food sources: Cod Liver oil, Atlantic wild-caught mackerel, walnuts, chia seeds, herring, Atlantic wild-caught salmon, flaxseeds, sardines, hemp seeds, anchovies, olive oil, pumpkin seeds, Brussels sprouts, and natto.
Over time, drinking large quantities of alcohol may increase the risk of developing dementia. Light to moderate alcohol consumption may be associated with a reduced risk of dementia. The benefits of moderate consumption have positive effects on brain health, including reducing inflammation, increasing good cholesterol, and increasing brain blood flow.
High intake of saturated fats, such as those found in meat, deep fried foods, and takeaway foods are associated with an increased risk of dementia. So too are trans fats: often found in pies, pastries, cakes, biscuits, and buns.
Keep Physically Active
Regular physical activity is associated with improved brain function and reduced risk of cognitive decline and dementia. Not engaging in physical activity increases the risk of developing dementia. Active is defined as having a raised heart rate so that you feel slightly out of breath for at least 30 consecutive minutes. Physical activity increases blood flow to the brain, stimulates the growth of brain cells and increases brain volume. It also reduces the risk of developing the four main risk factors for dementia: high blood pressure, obesity, diabetes, and high cholesterol. These risk factors are associated with an increased risk of cognitive decline.
To prevent the development of dementia, aerobic and resistance exercise should be incorporated into the daily routine. Aerobic exercise targets the brain’s cortex and hippocampus, where memory networks are kept. It stimulates the formation and growth of nerve cells in these areas and increases blood vessel formation to bring nourishing blood. Resistance exercise increases muscle mass, which helps to reduce fat percentage and rid the body of toxins. Walking daily + using free weights a few times a week are perfect options.
Keep Mentally Active
Give your brain a daily workout by engaging in activities that require a more significant amount of thought and focus. Some examples are reading, doing puzzles, crosswords, playing cards, or learning a new skill, such as a new language or knitting. Keeping the brain challenged with new activities reduces the risk of developing dementia by building new brain cells and strengthening the connections between them. This creates a reserve of cells so that if any are damaged or die, the brain can keep functioning normally. Mental exercise also protects against the accumulation of damaged proteins in the minds of people with symptoms of dementia. You should continue doing the things you love that easily bring joy ashould be continue; however, consistently challenging yourself and learning new things reduces your risk of cognitive decline.
If you currently smoke, active steps should be taken immediately to stop, and if you do not, you should avoid smoking to the best of your ability. Smoking can increase the risk of developing dementia because it harms the lungs, heart, and circulation. Heart health is directly linked to brain health, which is described in further detail below.
Regular Doctor Check-Ups
It is essential to get regular check-ins with your doctor to check for common risk factors for dementia. You want to check your blood pressure, weight, and cholesterol levels.
Improve and Maintain Heart Health
What is good for the heart is good for the brain. The risk of developing dementia increases as a result of conditions that affect the heart or blood vessels, mainly when these occur at mid-life. Having diabetes, high cholesterol or high blood pressure, and not treating or managing them effectively, can damage the blood vessels in the brain, affecting brain function and thinking skills.
Social engagement has been found to have benefits for health factors related to cognitive functioning, such as vascular condition and depression. It is mentally stimulating and may contribute to building brain cell reserves, which then helps to lower dementia risk. Engage in social activities that you enjoy, such as visiting friends, joining a club, and volunteering.
Stress hormones, such as cortisol, are associated with decreased hippocampus volume and impaired memory. Stress also increases inflammation, which is linked to neuronal damage. Try mini meditations throughout the day or longer meditations to balance mood and decrease internal stress. Meditation is also known for improving cognitive function.
Acetylcholine. Deficiency of acetylcholine has been implicated as possibly causing dementia. It plays an integral role in the retention and formation of short-term memories. Short-term memory loss is typically the first significant symptom that people are developing dementia experience.
Antioxidants. Found naturally in fruits and vegetables, AOs protect the fats that make up the cell membrane of all brain cells. They also protect brain cells from free-radical damage.
Coenzyme Q10. Increases the oxygenation of cells and is involved in the generation of cellular energy. This could improve memory skills and cognitive abilities.
Sunflower lecithin. Containing choline, a substance that can improve brain functioning.
Trimethylglycine (TMG). Assist the body in utilizing vitamin B12, folic acid, and vitamin B6. B12 is essential for brain function and is deficient in people with dementia. TMG also helps rid the body of toxic elements, such as homocysteine (found in high amounts in people with dementia), and increases levels of a natural mood elevator, S-adenosyl-methionine.