Here are 5 things to reduce the risk of dementia…

Dementia is a devastating illness that affects one in 10 people over 65 but recent research suggests there are things you can do to reduce the risk of it happening to you.[1]

The Economic Cost of Dementia in Australia report estimates that 413,000 Australians are living with dementia.[2] One in four people over the age of 85 will have dementia and by the age of 95, it’s one in two.[3]

Dementia isn’t one disease, but a range of conditions that cause loss of mental functioning as we age. While age is the biggest risk factor, dementia does not have to be inevitable.

What we can do!

A cognitive neuro-scientist with the University of Tasmania’s Wicking Dementia Research and Education Centre, Dr Maree Farrow says there are five key ways to reduce our risk:[4]

1. Staying mentally active

People who have mentally stimulating jobs or hobbies have a lower chance of developing dementia as they age. “It’s learning something new or different that’s important,” Dr Farrow says.

Some recommend keeping up with reading, crosswords, Sudoku, hand crafts, wood work or embroidery; anything that continues to stimulate us and keep the grey matter active.

2. Keep physically active

Physical activity helps grow new brain cells and new neural pathways between brain cells.  This can include aqua aerobics, walking, bowls or hiking.  Activity helps boosts the levels of chemicals that help keep brain cells healthy.

3. Eat well for better health

It’s no surprise that the most positive results on diet point to fruit and vegetables, which are rich in antioxidants.  Eating well can help us maintain both mental and physical health.

4. Stay socially active

A large network of friends helps your brain too. “You have to understand facial expressions and body language,” Dr Farrow says. “Lots of different parts of your brain are working.”  And keeping a social network means we’re interacting and maintaining human connection, vital for our mental health and well being.

5. Watch key health numbers

Keep blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar levels in the healthy range. If blood vessels in the brain are unhealthy, they in turn, will damage brain cells.  Regular check-ups and staying in touch with your GP is a good move.  If they know you well, they can also likely offer tips that can help with both physical and mental well being.

 

Notes:
[1]-[3] Brown, Prof. L., Hansnata, E. and La, H. A. (2017), The Economic Cost of Dementia in Australia 2016-2056. Report commissioned by Alzheimer’s Australia and developed by the National Centre for Social and Economic Modelling at the Institute for Governance and Policy Analysis at the University of Canberra. Sourced from: https://www.fightdementia.org.au/files/NATIONAL/documents/The-economic-cost-of-dementia-in-Australia-2016-to-2056.pdf

[4] Rehbin, A. (2013), ‘Speaking with Cognitive Neuroscientist – Dr Maree Farrow’, The Australian Hospital & Healthcare Bulletin. Sourced from: www.hospitalhealth.com.au/content/aged-allied-health/article/speaking-with-cognitive-neuroscientist-dr-maree-farrow-282646186.

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