How to defend yourself against dementia

Luckily, there’s a way to delay or reduce your risk of dementia by one-third.

Defend yourself against dementia

Forgetting the odd name or where you put your keys is a normal part of ageing – hell – it’s a normal part of life!

However, for some, increasing rates of forgetfulness can be worrying. The threat of Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia is one of the most disconcerting facets of ageing.

You’ll be glad to know, then, that there are ways to fend off the disease through simple lifestyle changes – changes that may delay or prevent one-third of dementia cases.

So, what are these lifestyle changes?

Watch what you eat
A diet rich in omega-3s, red berries, nuts, olive oil and dark, leafy greens is ideal for defending against dementia. Look up the 'Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay' – or ‘MIND diet’ – it was designed specifically to tackle cognitive decline.

Stimulate your brain
Playing memory-based games, doing crosswords, find-a-words (anything with words), solving puzzles, reading, learning, and playing certain video games keeps your brain engaged and will help reduce your risk of cognitive decline.

Minimise stress
Studies show that people with higher stress rates also have faster rates of cognitive decline. To minimise stress, practice breathing exercises, try yoga, exercise and give meditation a go.

Get your z’s
While there has been quite a bit of research into how sleep affects your body, there have only been observational studies on how it affects you mentally. However, these studies do show that poor sleep leads to cognitive decline. Between seven and nine hours of shut eye a night is ideal, but too much can do you harm.

Don’t smoke
Smoking may cause lung failure, cancer, heart disease, stroke and almost every other disease known to man, including Alzheimer’s. It has something to do with how it affects our blood vessels and the precious load they transport around our bodies. Best course of action? Don’t smoke.

Maintain a healthy social life
The National Institute on Ageing says that staying socially and cognitively active is a first line defence against dementia. Loneliness is linked to dementia and early death. In fact, a University of Chicago study revealed that the effects of isolation or rejection on the body are as legitimate as hunger, thirst or pain. A PLOS medical study also showed that being alone is:

  • equivalent to smoking 15 cigarettes a day
  • equivalent to being an alcoholic
  • more harmful than not exercising
  • twice as harmful as obesity. 

So, make friends or become reacquainted with your old friends, join a group, try dance lessons, or regularly visit markets, galleries and outdoor events and be sociable!

Keep your hearing in check
Hearing loss can dramatically increase your risk of Alzheimer’s, although the reason is not exactly clear. Some scientists believe it is because of the social isolation that comes about with deafness, while others maintain that when the brain is constantly processing sound it gets a healthy, daily workout that’s integral to good cognitive health. So, steer clear of loud noises, such as music and power tools, and use earplugs whenever possible.

Do you follow any of these steps? What suggestions do you have for keeping your brain stimulated? Do you have a favourite social activity you can recommend to our members?



    To make a comment, please register or login
    13th Feb 2018
    Join a U3A (University of the Third Age). They are very cheap, usually local, an excellent place to make friends to replace all those workplace buddies you used to have before you retired. In SA their motto "Staying active: mentally, physically and socially" says it all. You can join them and just be a learner but if you really want to receive maximum benefit, join to teach others or volunteer in some other way. Sharing the knowledge and skills you have acquired over your lifetime does wonders for your self esteem but it also stretches you and keeps you young.
    13th Feb 2018
    Have to agree with the U3A thing.

    I attended a few lectures, then was asked to provide some on a few diverse topics. I found I really enjoyed the research I needed to do it properly. They keep asking me back. Win Win etc.
    13th Feb 2018
    I wish keeping mentally active was the key to not getting dementia however some of the most intelligent and actively present people I know have succumb to this horrible affliction.
    13th Feb 2018
    Yes, you’re right, Rosret.
    The pom
    13th Feb 2018
    As a male well into my 80's I like to think that my daily dose of cryptic crosswords and various puzzles first thing before my exercise session with weights is working well so far. I don't touch alcohol or sweet drinks don't smoke, and in my earlier days ran marathons and raced bikes, still having a ride on the bike I bought for my 79th birthday when the weather is nice and I feel like it. I drive the car regularly and realise that driving is an activity requiring concentration, so I try to ensure that I am performing correctly and driving in such a manner that other people are unlikely to complain about my actions.
    13th Feb 2018
    Check out chess problems.

    13th Feb 2018
    Excellent advice here!
    13th Feb 2018
    Also, before you panic about Alzheimer’s get your B12 and thyroid checked. A lot of look alike Alzheimer’s symptoms can be due to one or both of those deficiencies.
    13th Feb 2018
    And sodium levels!
    15th Feb 2018
    Absolutely Eddy!
    13th Feb 2018
    A link has been discovered between the levels of Oxidative Stress in the body (free radical damage) and the onset of Alzheimer's. Free radical damage increases as we age, and is caused by many factors .... some unavoidable, such as breathing oxygen, and others avoidable, such as smoking.
    Thousands of studies have been published in in relation to the link between Oxidative Stress and the many diseases of aging. Such peer-reviewed studies have also proven the effectiveness of Nrf2 Activation in reducing Oxidative Stress and therefore reducing the chance of developing such diseases.
    I activate my Nrf2 pathways every day without fail .... easily done with one tablet per day.

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