Dementia is a leading cause of disability among seniors, and rates in Australia are rising at an alarming rate. Most evidence suggests that Alzheimer’s and other dementias have a strong genetic component, but this does not mean they are inevitable. Genes interact with the environment, and the right lifestyle interventions may slow or even halt the behaviour of genes associated with dementia. If you are concerned about developing dementia, or if Alzheimer’s runs in your family, the time to act is now. Here’s how to prevent this serious mental illness from affecting your life.
Keep Your Mind Active and Engaged
Maintaining an active, engaged mind is one of the very best things you can do to protect yourself against dementia. After all, use it or lose it! Your brain gets better at that which it frequently practices, so if you want it to keep working well into old age, continue challenging yourself. Challenge is the key here, so it’s ok if it’s not easy at first. Learning a new language or instrument, crossword puzzles, reading, or even taking up video games can all help.
Get Plenty of Physical Activity
Physical activity has always been one of the best thing you can do for your mental health. It may also prevent Alzheimer’s by improving circulation to your brain. Get at least 150 minutes of moderate physical activity, such as walking or swimming, each week. It’s even better if you can get more, so consider taking a dance class, joining an exercise group, or scheduling a daily walk with a neighbour.
Eat a Healthy Diet
Endless carbs and sugar can destroy brain cells and deplete motivation. Trim the waste out of your diet, and focus on getting lots of healthy, fresh foods. Protein is especially important for maintaining good brain health. Research consistently shows that the Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids found in fish, eggs, and some other protein can prevent dementia. Consider taking a supplement if you don’t get enough of these foods in your diet. Adding a daily protein shake, especially one made from vegetables, also can’t hurt.
Maintain Close Relationships
Loneliness doesn’t just feel bad. It could actually kill you. Social relationships keep your mind active and engaged. They also have been proven to reduce the risk of depression, anxiety, and dementia. Schedule regular events with loved ones, and commit to a lifetime of making new friends—even if doing so gets more difficult as you age.
Protect Your Cardiovascular Health
You might not realise it, but your heart health and brain are inextricably linked. Poor circulation can lead to a type of dementia called vascular dementia. Strokes, high blood pressure, and other heart issues can also increase your risk of Alzheimer’s. Get a regular check up with your doctor, and ask what you can do to lower your cardiovascular risk factors. If your doctor says you need to be on medication, take that recommendation seriously.