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Understanding risk factors for dementia and tips to reduce your risk
September 11, 2023

With the prevalence of dementia expected to nearly triple by 2050, the urgency to address its risk factors and promote risk reduction has never been greater.

World Alzheimer’s Month 2023 brings attention to this critical issue with the theme “Never too early, never too late,” focusing on the key risk factors associated with dementia and the steps individuals can take to mitigate those risks.

Recognising the scope of the problem

As the global population ages, the prevalence of dementia is on the rise. The World Health Organization estimates that around 50 million people worldwide currently live with dementia. What is more, this number is projected to reach 152 million by 2050 if effective interventions are not implemented.

In this context, understanding the risk factors associated with dementia becomes paramount in order to develop strategies that delay or prevent its onset.

The “Never Too Early, Never Too Late” approach

This year’s World Alzheimer’s Month theme is focussing on the importance of addressing dementia risk factors at all stages of life. The campaign encourages individuals to be proactive in risk reduction, regardless of their age.

By recognising that risk reduction efforts can be effective both early and late in life, the campaign aims to dispel the misconception that dementia is an inevitable consequence of ageing.

Key dementia risk factors

Recent research, including a comprehensive review led by Professor Gill Livingston of UCL Psychiatry, has identified twelve key risk factors associated with dementia. If these risk factors can be eliminated, it is estimated that up to 40% of dementia cases could be prevented. Some of the prominent risk factors include:

  • Smoking: not only damages your lungs but also negatively impacts your brain health, increasing your risk of cognitive decline.
  • Hearing impairment: untreated hearing loss has been linked to cognitive decline and an increased likelihood of developing dementia.
  • High blood pressure: hypertension can damage blood vessels and restrict blood flow to your brain, contributing to cognitive impairment.
  • Physical inactivity: leading a sedentary lifestyle can adversely affect your brain health. Regular physical activity promotes blood flow and overall cognitive function.
  • Excessive alcohol consumption: heavy drinking can lead to cognitive impairment and increase the risk of dementia.
  • Diabetes: is associated with an elevated risk of dementia. This is likely due to its impact on your blood vessels and glucose regulation.
  • Infrequent social contact: isolation and lack of social engagement have been linked to cognitive decline and an increased risk of dementia.

Reducing the risk of dementia

Prevention is better than cure. This is especially true when it comes to dementia, a condition that takes a significant toll on cognitive function and quality of life. The good news is that there are actionable steps you can take to reduce your risk of developing dementia.

The “Never Too Early, Never Too Late” theme of World Alzheimer’s Month 2023 serves as a powerful rallying call for people to take charge of their brain health.

Here’s a comprehensive guide to reducing the risk of dementia through lifestyle changes and proactive measures.

Prioritise mental stimulation

Engaging in mentally stimulating activities supports brain health. Activities such as reading, puzzles, learning new skills, and engaging in strategic games like chess or Sudoku help keep the brain active and agile. Additionally, lifelong learning and staying curious contribute to building cognitive resilience.

Adopt a healthy diet

A balanced and nutritious diet is not only beneficial for physical health but also plays a crucial role in brain health. Incorporate a variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats into your meals. The Mediterranean diet, known for its emphasis on olive oil, fish, nuts, and plenty of vegetables, is linked to a reduced risk of cognitive decline.

Stay physically active

Regular physical activity offers a myriad of benefits for overall health, and it’s no different when it comes to brain health. Exercise promotes blood flow to the brain, reduces inflammation, and enhances the growth of new neurons. Aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous activity per week, along with strength training exercises.

Manage cardiovascular health

Your heart and brain health are closely linked. High blood pressure, high cholesterol, and obesity are risk factors for both cardiovascular disease and dementia. Adopting heart-healthy habits, such as maintaining a healthy weight, monitoring blood pressure, and managing cholesterol levels, can contribute to brain health as well.

Get quality sleep

Sleep plays a vital role in cognitive function and memory consolidation. Aim for 7 to 9 hours of quality sleep each night. Establish a regular sleep schedule, create a comfortable sleep environment, and avoid stimulants like caffeine and electronic devices before bedtime.

Social engagement

Maintaining strong social connections is linked to better cognitive health. Regular interactions with friends, family, and community members provide mental and emotional stimulation that supports brain function. Join clubs, volunteer, or engage in activities that foster social interaction.

Manage stress

Chronic stress can have a negative impact on brain health. Practice stress-reduction techniques such as mindfulness, meditation, deep breathing, and yoga. Engaging in relaxation techniques helps reduce the production of stress hormones that can affect the brain.

Avoid harmful habits

Certain habits have a detrimental effect on brain health. Avoid or quit smoking, limit alcohol consumption to moderate levels, and steer clear of recreational drugs. Smoking and excessive alcohol intake are linked to cognitive decline and an increased risk of dementia.

Protect your hearing

Hearing loss is associated with cognitive decline. Protect your hearing by avoiding loud noises and using ear protection when necessary. If you experience hearing loss, seek appropriate treatment and use hearing aids if recommended.

Monitor chronic conditions

Chronic conditions like diabetes and heart disease can impact brain health. Follow your healthcare provider’s recommendations for managing these conditions to minimise their impact on cognitive function.

Embracing these lifestyle changes and adopting a brain-healthy approach to life, can significantly reduce your risk of developing dementia.

The “Never Too Early, Never Too Late” campaign encourages everyone to take steps to safeguard their cognitive well-being. This makes a positive impact not only on your own life but on the broader fight against dementia as well. Remember, small changes today can lead to significant benefits for your brain health tomorrow.

Brain Health Check-in Tool

One valuable tool in the fight against dementia is the Brain Health Check-in Tool. This tool provides you with a comprehensive assessment of your risk factors for dementia based on evidence-based guidelines.

By answering a series of questions related to lifestyle, health, and habits, you gain insights into your potential risk factors and receive personalised recommendations for risk reduction.

By eliminating key risk factors and promoting a brain-healthy lifestyle, we have the potential to significantly impact the trajectory of this devastating condition. It’s time to raise awareness, encourage action, and invest in the well-being of our brain health for a future with reduced dementia prevalence.

Getting in touch with Mumby’s Live-in Care

If you or your loved one is seeking live-in care for dementia, you can rest assured you’ll be in safe hands with Mumby’s. Our experienced and compassionate team is ready to guide you through the process and address any questions or concerns you have. To explore the possibilities of Mumby’s Live-in Care for dementia patients, simply head to our contact page or complete the short form below.

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