Dementia is an overall term for symptoms related to a decline in mental ability which interfere with one’s everyday life. These symptoms are problems with memory, thinking and language, resulting in mood and behavior changes. The most common cause of the set of symptoms known as dementia is Alzheimer’s disease.
Other causes include thyroid gland problems, vascular changes, depression, head trauma, Parkinson’s disease, vitamin deficiency, medications, and chronic infections.
If the culprit in dementia is not treatable, more brain cells will be damaged. This will lead to gradual worsening of the symptoms. But, if the cause is treatable such as in the case of thyroid problems, medications, and vitamin deficiencies, dementia is reversible.
That’s why you have to visit a doctor to determine the culprit in dementia if you notice some of the warning signs.
Besides genetic predisposition, other risk factors for dementia include psychological, environmental, and lifestyle factors. Luckily, there’s something you can do to prevent developing dementia and protect your brain’s health.
Risk Factors for Dementia
Here, we’ll discuss ten strategies to work on the following modifiable risk factors for dementia:
- Medication that contributes to developing dementia
- Vitamin deficiencies & poor diet
- Impaired function of the thyroid gland
- Cardiovascular factors (high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes)
- Low physical activity
- Head injuries
- Alcohol use
10 Ways to Lower the Risk of Dementia
1. Be Careful with Anticholinergic Medication
These drugs work by hindering the parasympathetic nerve impulses. The automatic nervous system is consisted of two main parts, one of them being the parasympathetic nerve system. Its function if to manage the activities which happen when you rest. The parasympathetic nerves control the involuntary muscle movements related to lungs, gastrointestinal tract, urinary tracts, and other body systems.
A lot of prescription and over-the-counter drugs like heart medications, sleep aids, allergy medicines, and antidepressants show mild to strong anticholinergic activity in the human’s body. Recently, a long-term study proved the link between increasing high-dose anticholinergic use and the onset of dementia.
Researchers try to help doctors inform their patients which drugs have this effect, the level at which they are dangerous, and how to avoid and reduce their use. If you’re on any of these medications, don’t stop them right away but first consult your doctor to see if you can change them or at least limit their usage.
2. Vitamin D
The link between vitamin D deficiency and cognitive decline, which leads to developing dementia symptoms, have been proven by many animal and pre-clinical human studies. When researchers gave vitamin D supplements to animals, they noticed increased protection against processes in the body that might lead to Alzheimer’s and dementia.
All evidence suggests that vitamin D helps protect against these conditions, even though more human trials are needed to support this. Besides going out in the sun, a good way to get the needed amount of vitamin D is by taking supplements.
3. Fish Oil
Low levels of DHA (decosahexaenoic acid) are linked to increased cognitive impairment and poor memory in older adults. You can find this fat in fish oil, so taking it as a supplement is a great way to prevent dementia at early stages.
The recommended daily dose of DHA to obtain its brain-boosting effects is 1000mg. So, consume enough fish oil (usually a combination of DHA and EPA) to get this DHA amount. Improper supplementation with fish oil can have certain side effects, so make sure you consult a doctor before considering this option.
4. B Complex Vitamin
These vitamins play an important role in many cellular processes. Vitamin B6, B12, and folate are extremely helpful in reducing the levels of homocysteine, HC – a molecule which damages the vascular system.
High levels of HC can increase the risk of stroke, heart disease, and other vascular issues leading to cognitive decline related to aging. To reduce the levels of this molecule as well as its detrimental effects on your body, take B complex which includes 500mcg of vitamin B12.
5. Be Physically Active
One of the best ways to increase the strength of your vascular system is to get your body moving and your heart pumping every day. Being physically active can prevent almost all chronic health problems, and this includes even half an hour of walking, gardening, or biking.
So, if you’re not a fan of intense workout regime, you can surely take 30 minutes of your time to do some of these moderate activities. What’s more, connecting with nature has been proven to be more effective in reducing weight and blood pressure than an indoor workout.
6. Try Something New to Challenge Your Brain Every Day
If you give your brain a different task every day, you will delay the onset of dementia. This includes doing word puzzles, crosswords, and learning a new language.
Studies have shown that adults who are bilingual have delayed symptoms of dementia by five years in comparison to those who speak just one language. On the other hand, doing crossword puzzles on a daily basis has been proven to delay the onset of memory decline by two and a half years.
7. Quit Smoking and Control Alcohol Intake
The fact that excessive smoking and alcohol consumption is detrimental to your health at so many levels is more than clear. These unhealthy habits lead to the development of a wide range of chronic diseases.
A study has shown that daily smokers have a higher risk of Alzheimer’s disease than former smokers and non-smokers by 45%.
Here comes the interesting part. In regards to alcohol intake, those who drink one to six drinks a week which is regarded as moderate amount of alcohol, have the lowest risk of dementia.
Surprisingly, this risk is slightly higher in people who don’t drink alcohol at all.
So, moderate drinkers have the lowest risk of developing dementia due to the slight antioxidant effects from moderate drinking, especially red wine.
We don’t say you should start drinking every day if you don’t have this habit, but just to let you know that if you do, don’t consume more than one drink a day to reduce your risk of dementia.
8. Protect Your Brain
Protect your head and brain by wearing a helmet when riding a bike. Be extra careful if you’ve ever suffered from a concussion to protect your brain from further damage.
9. Stay Connected Socially
Being socially active is one of the best ways to prevent many health problems. Having a reliable social network can avoid the consequences of loneliness and isolation. The combination of friends and nature is great for your overall health and mood.
10. Control Your Cholesterol, Blood Pressure, Fasting Blood Sugar, and Weight
The metabolic and cardiovascular health affect your risk of dementia, stroke, heart disease, and other diseases. That’s why it’s recommended to keep their levels at the recommended levels. Adults with type 2 diabetes developed in their midlife have 50% higher risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease than people with normal blood sugar levels.
These are some suggestions you should have in mind to protect your brain from cognitive decline and dementia. It’s best to consult your doctor to rule out other health problems like depression or thyroid dysfunction. Now that you know these useful tips, you can start taking more care of yourself and your brain.