Did you know every 65 seconds, someone in the United States develops Alzheimers or dementia?
There are a number of risk factors that make people more susceptible to developing dementia than others. The biggest of all is age, with most people diagnosed with the disease tending to be over 65.
Above this age, your risk of developing dementia or Alzheimer’s roughly doubles every five years. Unfortunately, there is no way to reduce this level of risk.
However, there are factors which are in your control. Recent research suggests that one in three cases of dementia are preventable. So, what are the things in your control that you can do to reduce your risk of developing dementia? Read on to find out.
Frank Longo of Stanford hospital describes the risk factors, symptoms and treatments surrounding dementia.
Low educational and cognitive attainment is one of the many preventable causes of dementia. Age should be no barrier to learning, and by picking up new skills and knowledge, you can keep your brain active and help to lower your chances of developing dementia.
Conventional book learning is a great way to improve your educational attainment and keep your brain active. Now might be the perfect time in your life to study the subject you always wished you had at college.
Group study is a great option as it not only keeps your mind active but introduces you to new people and helps to ward off the risk of loneliness. If you’re struggling for inspiration, take a look at the following government schemes which could help you pick a course or program that suits your needs:
- Experience Corps – Seniors who provide educational assistance to inner-city children.
- Volunteer Match – Vocational volunteering across a wide range of sectors.
- Serve – Government agency promoting volunteering opportunities in your community.
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Playing games and solving puzzles helps to keep your brain mentally agile
Learning and acquiring new skills through reading and volunteering are undoubtedly great ways to keep your brain active, but these methods aren’t for everybody. Luckily, there are other activities you can do to keep your brain mentally agile.
Playing new games and solving puzzles from the comfort of your own home are proven ways to keep your mind in tip-top shape. Look for games that will provoke deep thinking, ones you may not have played before that will require a bit of research and know-how to play.
Casino card games such as blackjack, bridge and poker are great for this as they aren’t purely based on luck and have a number of other skills involved which are perfect for exercising the brain. Blackjack, for example, may seem like a simple game that anyone could take part in. However, there is a lot of thinking that goes into the card game and a sound understanding of the strategy is key to doing well and winning. Brush up on your knowledge with some top tips from the well-known and respected Henry Tamburin Ph.D blackjack expert & author when you check out his comprehensive guide on blackjack strategy.
If that’s not your thing, there are numerous other brain-focused games that you can get started with, like video games. Traditionally associated with teenagers, video games are becoming more and more popular with older generations looking to keep their mind active and they’re fun too!
Meditation can greatly improve your mental wellbeing
High levels of stress are deeply damaging to your body. In the short-term, you may find yourself struggling with concentration, lack of sleep and fatigue. Over time, prolonged stress can lead to more serious and debilitating problems such as memory lapses and eventually dementia.
Fortunately, there are plenty of things you can do to manage your stress levels and become more content, such as;
- Mindfulness: A reflective breathing exercise based on the principles of meditation which encourages you to let go off stress and anxiety whilst focusing on the present. This technique has been recommended by numerous authorities around the world including the British NHS.
- Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT): A technique which effectively seeks to rewire your brain to avoid negative thinking patterns. It can be practised either independently or with the help of a medical professional.
- Talking: Whether it’s talking to friends, family or medical professionals, simply opening up to others about your problems is an incredibly powerful way to reduce stress and negative feelings.
Zumba is an ideal way to gently increase your activity levels.
The older we get, the more tempting it is to shelve regular exercise routines in favour of a more relaxed, sedentary life. Unfortunately, this can have a detrimental effect on your brain as well as your body.
The most important thing about beginning a new exercise routine though is not to overdo it. You don’t have to become a marathon runner or a bodybuilder. Light to the moderate aerobic exercise of 30 minutes or more, 2 to 3 times a week will be enough to start with.
Not only will this help to reduce your risk of dementia, but it will have a positive effect on your body and your mental wellbeing too.
Of all the physical activities, dancing is one of the most efficient and fun ways to maintain a sharp mind, especially with learning new moves every time.
Several studies have shown that dancing is linked to a reduced risk of dementia as it improves brain function and boosts memory.
Reduce your alcohol intake
Heavy alcohol consumption can affect memory and metal capacity as you get older.
While enjoying the occasional tipple is fine, too much alcohol consumption slow down your mental capacity, reducing your ability to remember and problem solve.
Those are all the short-term effects of alcohol. In the long-term, the effect of moderate to heavy alcohol consumption can severely increase your chances of developing dementia.
Alcohol-related brain injury is a condition that not only increases your susceptibility to dementia, but it also mimics the symptoms of the vascular disease. Fortunately, you can eliminate the impact of alcohol on your brain by cutting it out altogether.
If you enjoy a drink and don’t want to completely cut it out, think about reducing your drinking and trying to limit it to at least two days a week and not drinking to excess during these two days.
Whilst there is nothing you can do about getting older, there are fortunately plenty of things you can do to reduce your risk of developing dementia or Alzheimer’s. The tips and pointers given in this article should help you in reducing your individual risk level.
For further information or techniques to reduce your risk, seek the advice of a medical professional or search out the literature produced by various Alzheimers and dementia organisations.