What can I do to reduce my risk of developing Dementia  

Most of us are terrified of developing dementia. It can be our biggest fear as we get older. It is a very  frightening diagnosis not only to the person receiving the diagnosis but it has a significant impact to  their family and friends. What is so frightening about this disease is that there is no cure, and it is  progressive.  

It is still unclear how dementia develops. As we know dementia is an umbrella term used to describe  a number of symptoms that result from damage to the brain caused by a number of different  diseases. There is no certain way to prevent all types of dementia. Some dementia risk factors are  impossible to change. What the evidence does show is that advancing age is a risk factor. However,  it is important to note that dementia is not a natural part of ageing but the older you are the risk of  developing dementia does increase.  

Evidence shows that there are things that you can do to reduce your own risk. Researchers advise  that by modifying the risk factors we are able to reduce the risk of developing dementia by around a  third which is hugely significant.  

A healthy lifestyle that promotes good heart health is also good for brain health.  

1. Untreated high blood pressure or high cholesterol has a harmful effect on the heart as it  increases the risk of stroke and vascular dementia. Treating high blood pressure with  medicine prescribed by your doctor can control your blood pressure and reduce your risk.  

2. Maintaining a healthy weight and reducing a diet high in fat and sugar can also reduce your  risk. A study in the US concluded that those people who ate a diet consisting of at least 2  servings of vegetables a day particularly green leafy veg as well as reduced salt , sugar and  processed foods had significant less cognitive decline. For those with type 2 diabetes it is  crucial to maintain a healthy blood sugar level . Also important is hydration so make sure you  drink plenty of water. 

3. Become physically active. Even getting out doors for a daily walk can not only boost your  mood but it is also good for your heart and your weight. Any form of exercise is important. 

4. Stop smoking and try and limit alcohol intake. Smoking can increase your risk of heart and  lung problems and increase your risk of stroke. Limit alcohol intake as drinking too much can  worsen other health conditions as well as risk of falls.  

5. Stay connected. Research reveals that social interaction and being involved socially can  decrease your risk. Social isolation and loneliness can increase your risk by 50 %. 

6. Stay sharp. Keeping your brain active by learning a new skill. Try learning a new language ,  learning to play a musical instrument or any new skill is excellent for brain health.  

7. Decrease stress levels as much as you can . Try meditation praying or just talking to someone  about your worries can help reduce your stress.  

8. Try and get a good nights sleep. A nap in the afternoon can also be good for brain health.  Speak to your doctor if you have trouble sleeping. 

9. One of the biggest things that you can do is get your hearing checked. A recent Lancet study  in the UK found that those with hearing loss had an increased risk of developing dementia as  the brain had to work harder to strain and fill in the gaps . If you are finding that you are  struggling to hear book an appointment for a hearing check. Also if you have been  prescribed a hearing aid it is important to wear it. Similarly poor eyesight can put you at risk  of falls so have your vision checked on a regular basis also.  

Helen Coyne MSc Nursing. Director Elite Homecare Providers 60 Haggard St Trim 0469431736  info@elitehomecareproviders.ie

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