8 Self-Help Steps to Guard Against Dementia
When we reach a certain age it can become difficult to accept the fact that our bodies and minds aren’t what they used to be. But gradually we read the writing on the wall. We realise that some of the cognitive changes we are seeing in ourselves might be signs that we are at risk of dementia. We can however act to improve the odds. Here are my 8 self-help steps to guard against dementia:
Regular Health Checkups
This is especially important if you have a family history of dementia or cardiovascular problems. The doctor can monitor your blood pressure and cholesterol. Prevention is so much better than waiting until you are get more specific symptoms of a condition or disease. Poor cardiac fitness and lower I.Q in teenage males has even been shown to be linked to increased risk of dementia in later life.
Omega-3 fatty acids found in tuna or salmon has been shown to be associated with improved heart health and a reduced risk of vascular illnesses and with better cognition in the middle aged. A diet rich in vitamin B-B6, B12, folic acid, vitamin E and C have all had confusing and contradictory results in their association with improving cognition and reducing the incidence of Alzheimer’s. However maintaining a healthy weight with a balanced diet is important for brain health.
Obesity has been shown to increase our risk of dementia. Poor cardiac fitness, being overweight, obese or with a high BMI (body mass index)
have all been linked with increased risk of dementia.
Regular Exercise is important for your heart and cardiovascular system. Exercise helps with your balance, muscle tone and helps prevent obesity. Walking, running, weight training, aerobic exercises have been shown to be effective in preventing and risk reduction of dementia. Check with your doctor if you are concerned about doing intensive training. Some types of exercise may do more harm than good for some individuals.
Challenge your Brain
Intellectual stimulation such as reading, doing puzzles, continuing or getting a hobby, joining educational classes, learning a new language, and generally stretching yourself intellectually are all important for brain health.
Build up your Cognitive Reserve
Cognitive reserve is a term becoming increasingly used to denote building up spare capacity. Research shows cognitive reserve is associated with delaying the symptoms of Alzheimer’s. People with higher levels of education and greater intellect have been shown by Yaakov Stern to compensate better for the brain damage caused by Alzheimer’s.
Improve your Sleep Pattern
Having a purposeful and full day increases your chances of getting a good sleep. If you are napping in the day chances are you will not sleep well at night and it becomes a vicious circle.
Regular Social Contact
Regular social contact and taking part in social activities is important for our mental health. Social isolation and loneliness increases our risk of depression. In turn, keeping fit and stimulated becomes an uphill struggle. Depression increases memory impairment, however most memory issues are resolved with treatment for depression. There is some evidence that depression may be an early symptom of dementia so any concerns you have should be discussed with your doctor.
Christine Kennard wrote about Alzheimer’s for HealthCentral. She has many years of experience in private and public sector nursing care homes for people with dementia. She has worked in a variety of hospital, public and private health settings and specialized in community nursing. Christine is qualified in group analytic psychotherapy, is registered in general and mental health nursing and has a Masters degree.