when we think of dementia, we often fear a loss of control. But the reassuring news is that up to 40% of dementias can be prevented or delayed if we change our health habits.
Nearly half a million Australians live with dementia. Without a cure, this number is expected to reach 1.1 million by 2058.
Dementia shares key risk factors with cardiovascular disease (of the heart and blood vessels)including high blood pressure, high blood sugar, being overweight, and smoking. Inflammation and oxidative stress (where protective antioxidants are losing the battle with damaging free radicals) follow. This damages the blood vessels and reduces the flow of blood and oxygen to the brain.
not enough oxygen, brain cells cannot function effectively and eventually die. Reduced blood flow also leaves the brain vulnerable to the plaques and tangles seen in forms of dementia.
But by changing our habits, we can improve heart health and reduce dementia risk. Here are five lifestyle changes we can make right now.
Eat 2-3 servings of oily fish each week
Omega-3s are also necessary to support the structure and function of our brain cells and are essential nutrients. This means that we must get them from our diet. This is especially true as we age, because reductions in omega-3 intake have been linked to faster rates of cognitive decline.
Eat plant foods with every meal
Plant foods such as green leafy vegetables, extra virgin olive oilBlueberries, Walnuts, and Legumes: They contain a variety of vitamins and minerals, including polyphenols, flavonoids, carotenoids, vitamin C, and vitamin E. These micronutrients have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects that protect and improve the function of our blood vessels.
Diets rich in plant foods, such as Mediterranean dietthey have been shown to improve blood pressure, glucose regulation, and body composition, and have also been linked to lower rates of cognitive decline, better markers of brain health, and lower risk of dementia.
Eat less processed foods
On the other hand, saturated fats, refined carbohydrates, and red and processed meats are thought to trigger inflammatory and highly processed foods have been linked to hypertension, type 2 diabetes and obesity.
Eating more of these foods means that we are likely to miss out on the benefits of other foods as well. Whole grains (such as whole oats, rye, buckwheat, and barley) provide fiber, vitamins B, E, magnesium, and phytonutrients that have anti-inflammatory and anti-inflammatory properties. antioxidant Properties Refined grains (such as white bread, rice, and pasta) are highly processed, meaning many of these beneficial nutrients are removed.
Make it physical and make it fun
Physical activity can reduce inflammation and blood pressure, while improving blood vessel function. This helps the body deliver more oxygen to the brain, improving memory and other cognitive functions affected by dementia.
The guidelines suggest that adults should participate in physical activity On most days, cut out long periods of inactivity (like watching TV) and incorporate some resistance exercises.
The key to building long-term exercise habits is choosing physical activities enjoy and make small, gradual increases in activity. Any movement that raises your heart rate can be classified as physical activity, including gardening, walking, and even housework.
Give up smoking
smokers are 60% more likely to develop dementia than non-smokers. This is because smoking increases inflammation and oxidative stress that damage the structure and function of our blood vessels.
Give up smoking can begin to reverse these effects. In fact, former smokers have a significantly lower risk of cognitive decline and dementia compared to current smokers, similar to that of people who have never smoked.
It’s too late?
It’s never too early or too late to start making these changes.
Obesity and high blood pressure in midlife are key predictors of dementia risk, while diabetesphysical inactivity and smoking are stronger predictors of later life.
Regular physical activity at a younger age can lower blood pressure and lower the risk of diabetes. Like quitting smoking, changes at any stage of life can reduce inflammation and modify dementia risk.
It can be overwhelming to change your entire diet, start a new exercise program, and quit smoking all at once. But even small changes can lead to significant improvements in health. Start by making manageable trade-offs, like:
*Use extra virgin olive oil instead of butter, margarine and other cooking oils
*Change a portion of processed foodssuch as chips, white bread, or commercial crackers, for a handful of nuts
*Change a serving of meat every week for a serving of oily fish
*Trade five minutes of sedentary time for five minutes of walking and slowly increase each day.