The human brain is amazing! It is seen by many as the pinnacle of our evolution as it generates all our thoughts, memories, emotions and ideas. It is exactly because of this and our fear of losing these abilities that makes a dementia diagnosis difficult to deal with – but can you slow down the effects of dementia?
According to the Alzheimer’s Society, there are 850,000 people with dementia in the UK (that’s one in six over the age of 80!), with numbers due to rise to over one million by 2051, thanks to our ageing population.
But there’s happier and more positive news – even reasons to feel optimistic. Although it’s not fully understood what causes dementia and there is no cure, there is mounting evidence that we are not as powerless as we think when it comes to prevention.
The slow build nature of dementia means that our everyday choices in mid-life could make a difference potentially slowing or pausing dementia.
Ageing is the biggest risk factor for dementia and obviously can’t be changed. There are, however, lots of things you can do to reduce your risk. It’s up to you. It’s never too young to develop good habits, but mid-life (age 40-64) is a good time to start making healthy choices. So here they are:
Keep physically active
For at least 30 minutes, five times a week. You’ll need to be active enough to raise your heart rate and get a bit out of breath.
By smoking you are at a greater risk of developing dementia and harming your lungs, heart and circulation.
Eat a healthy balanced diet and keep to a healthy weight
We all know it’s important to eat correctly. A healthy diet has a high proportion of oily fish, fruit, vegetables, unrefined cereals and olive oil, and low levels of red meat and sugar. Such a diet will help reduce your risk of dementia, heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes.
Keep your alcohol intake within recommended limits
They are 14 units each week for men and women, spread over three or more days. This is the same as four and five large glasses of wine, or seven pints of beer or lager with a lower alcohol content.
Give your brain a daily workout
My own Nan is evidence of this…she is 82 and does a crossword every single day, and she is always on top of her game! If you keep your mind active then you are likely to reduce your risk of dementia.
All these things seem easily achievable and shouldn’t be anything new for people to hear, but they have been found to reduce dementia and that should be something that we all strive to achieve.
The NEURO plan is key to preventing the disease, which stands for the following:
Nutrition – Opt for a whole-food, plant-based diet that’s low in sugar, salt and processed foods – vegetables, fruits, pulses, grains and healthy fats are what the brain requires to thrive.
Exercise – An active lifestyle should incorporate movement every hour. This increases both the number of brain cells and the connections between them.
Unwind – Manage stress with meditation, yoga, mindful breathing exercises, time spent in nature and the support of strong communities. Chronic stress puts the brain in a high state of high inflammation, causing structural damage and impairing its ability to clear harmful waste.
Restore – Aim for seven to eight hours of regular, detoxifying sleep. Restoring sleep is essential for cognitive and overall health.
Optimise – Look for activities like music that challenge and engage the brain’s capacities, as well as meaningful, constant engagement have an undeniable influence on how your brain ages.