By Hana Frenette
The number of people worldwide currently living with dementia is estimated at 50 million. Scientists around the globe are conducting studies to learn more about what causes dementia, how to prevent it, and how to slow the onset of the disease.
While dementia isn’t entirely preventable yet, new research has found various lifestyle changes that may play a role in drastically reducing your chances of developing the disease, while contributing to your overall health and well-being.
Eat a Balanced Diet
What we eat plays a major role in our health, happiness and overall cognitive function. Research shows eating colorful fruits and vegetables, leafy greens, lean proteins, fish and olive oil may reduce your risk of dementia.
A recent study conducted in Spain found that those who followed a Mediterranean diet with a focus on fatty fish, nuts and olive oils had a slower rate of cognitive decline.
Regular exercise has a multitude of benefits—improved heart and lung capabilities, increased stamina, muscle toning, lower blood pressure—but one of the biggest benefits of physical activity is a major boost in brain function and memory retention. Significant research conducted over the last decade has shown a strong correlation between consistent exercise and lower rates of dementia.
Get Enough Sleep
A good night’s rest is incredibly important for proper cognitive function and memory retention. Scientists say it’s important to try and get at least 6-8 hours of sleep a night once you reach your 50s and 60s.
A study out of Great Britain recently reported that subjects in their 50s averaging 6 hours or less sleep a night were 30 percent more likely to develop dementia than those who regularly averaged 7 hours or more of sleep per night.
Make Time for Social and Emotional Connections
For many people, spending too much time alone can lead to feelings of loneliness and depression, which in turn can lead to increased cortisol released in the body and increased inflammation—a trigger for many diseases including dementia.
Aside from being enjoyable, social activities are a great way to build connections in the brain and exercise your cognitive abilities.
Limit Alcohol and Cigarette Usage
Increased alcohol intake and cigarette usage increase a person’s risk for a host of diseases, such as heart and lung disease, diabetes and various cancers. It increases inflammation in the body and contributes negatively to the circulation of blood through the body, including the blood vessels in the brain.
Engage in Mentally Stimulating Activities
Scientists believe regularly challenging yourself mentally can help build off your “cognitive reserve” and serve as a way to stave off the development of dementia-related illnesses. Some fun ways to challenge your brain include learning a new language, completing a puzzle, writing a letter or short story, or playing card or board games.
- Alzheimer’s Society
- Alzheimer’s Association
- Harvard Health Publishing
- National Institute on Aging
- Mayo Clinic
- Harvard Health Publishing