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?

Written by Leon Della Bosca

Leon Della Bosca has worked in publishing and media in one form or another for around 25 years. He's a voracious reader, word spinner and art, writing, design, painting, drawing, travel and photography enthusiast. You'll often find him roaming through galleries or exploring the streets of his beloved Melbourne and surrounding suburbs, sketchpad or notebook in hand, smiling.
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