According to the World Health Organization, 50 million people across the globe live with dementia.
An estimated 60% of these cases hail from low- and middle-income countries. Moreover, ten million new cases of dementia are diagnosed every year.
As per the National Institute on Ageing (NIA), dementia is an umbrella term used to refer to a set of symptoms, including impaired cognition, thinking, and memory.
Dementia may result due to a multitude of reasons. The most common form of dementia that accounts for approximately 60 to 80% of dementia cases worldwide is Alzheimer’s disease. Other common types of dementia include vascular dementia, Lewy body dementia, and dementia associated with Parkinson’s disease.
Cognitive decline takes a significant toll on a person’s ability to carry out everyday tasks with ease. These include walking, eating, getting dressed, and more. Dementia impairs a person’s thinking, decision-making, judgment, and memory. All of these factors impact a person’s overall quality of life.
Dementia is often associated with cognitive decline due to aging, illness, or injury. However, the most prominent risk factor associated with dementia is aging.
As per reports, by 2050, one-fifth of the world’s population will consist of older adults above the age of 60. The rates of dementia are expected to rise, with approximately 65.7 million people falling victim to it by 2030 and 115.4 million people by 2050.
The question has to be asked: what can be done to prevent or delay the onset of dementia and its associated symptoms?
Research suggests that certain lifestyle changes can reduce one’s risk of developing dementia. According to recent studies, adopting multiple healthy lifestyle modifications may help reduce cognitive decline in older adults.
The following is a list of 5 healthy habits for seniors that can help prevent dementia.
1. Regular Exercise
Regular physical exercise has been studied to reduce a person’s risk of developing dementia by approximately 50%. In fact, exercise has been proved to help individuals with reported cognitive issues by slowing down further neuronal degradation.
Senior citizens are advised to exercise at least five times a week for a minimum of 30 minutes. Studies reveal that a mix of aerobic physical activity and muscle strengthening can benefit cognitive function.
Aerobic physical activity (brisk walking, bicycling, or running) helps improve cardiovascular health by enhancing blood circulation. Vigorous physical activities may include running, jogging, or a high-intensity workout. Adults are also advised to participate in muscle-strengthening exercises at least twice a week as they increase muscle strength and endurance.
Other recommended exercises include balance and coordination exercises such as yoga, taichi, pilates, and more. A significant risk to consider with older adults is that of head injuries resulting from falls. Balance and coordination exercises help adults stay agile and avoid falls, thereby preventing them from head injuries.
2. Healthy Diet
As per the results of various research studies, a healthy and balanced diet can lower one’s risk of developing dementia and protect brain function. Proper nutrition can keep the body nourished and healthy as well as ease any dementia-related behavioral symptoms.
When it comes to following a healthy diet, there are specific vital points to follow:
Avoid sugar and saturated fat: Foods with high sugar content, refined carbohydrates, and fatty foods cause damage to more than one system. Not only do they contribute to weight gain, but they also increase one’s risk of developing other health problems such as heart disease and diabetes. Diabetes has been closely linked to Alzheimer’s disease. Therefore, it is critical to reduce sugar and saturated fat intake and opt for healthier options instead.
Follow a Mediterranean diet: A Mediterranean diet is one of the most recommended diets for older adults. High in whole grains, nuts, vegetables, legumes, olive oil, and foods high in omega-3 fats, while being low in sugar, red meat, and refined foods, a Mediterranean diet is excellent for brain health. Studies suggest that Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) found in these healthy fats may help reduce one’s risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. Food sources with high DHA include fish such as salmon, tuna, mackerel, and sardines.
Have some tea: According to a study published in the Journal of Nutrition, Health & Ageing, consuming black, green, or oolong tea regularly and frequently can help lower one’s risk of dementia. Researchers claim that tea’s benefits on the brain come from the bioactive compounds in tea, catechins, and theaflavins. These bioactive compounds contain anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and brain-protecting properties that help boost brain health.
Incorporate supplements in your diet: Supplements are necessary to ensure proper nutrition and to boost brain health. The human body needs vitamins B3 and B6 to form neurotransmitters, making them essential for the brain and nervous system’s healthy functioning. Similarly, vitamin D is a potent anti-inflammatory and immune-boosting nutrient, helping slow dementia development and the onset of symptoms. Vitamin E helps prevent diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease.
3. Mental Stimulation
The body loses fitness and muscle mass if it is not subjected to physical activity. Similarly, the brain must also be subjected to constant activity, i.e., stimulation, to help it stay active and healthy.
Mental stimulation helps the brain stay alert and active, making it less vulnerable to lesions that can cause Alzheimer’s disease. It also helps slow brain deterioration in people experiencing Alzheimer’s related symptoms, such as cognitive impairment and memory loss.
The following are some ways in which the brain can be stimulated with the help of mental challenges.
Learn something new: Learning something new poses a challenge that helps the brain stay active. Picking up a new activity such as a foreign language, a musical instrument, a hobby, or a book helps facilitate the process. The more challenging the endeavor, the greater the benefit.
Engage in strategy games and puzzles: Riddles and brain teasers offer an excellent mental workout by training the brain to produce and retain cognitive associations. Activities like crossword puzzles, cards, board games, chess, Scrabble, and Sudoku are all great options to work with.
Break habits: Doing things differently by stepping away from convention helps the brain accustom itself to new situations. For instance, eating with the non-dominant hand, doing an everyday task differently, taking a new route home, or breaking an old habit helps the brain do things out of the norm and out of one’s comfort zone, thereby generating new brain pathways.
4. Stress Reduction
Continuous stress can take a severe toll on the brain, thereby increasing one’s risk of developing dementia significantly. Multiple research studies have interrelated anxiety with Alzheimer’s development, especially in at-risk individuals.
Reduce everyday stress by prioritizing time outs. Set aside time to relax by indulging in leisure activities such as reading, listening to music, walking, yoga, or knitting, perhaps. Intentionally setting time aside helps one look forward to a breather.
Meditation also helps relax the mind. Meditation has been studied to increase protective tissue in the brain and reduce cortisol levels in the body. Cortisol, also referred to as the stress hormone, has been proved to increase the risk of developing dementia.
Besides meditation and taking planned leisure breaks, interacting with others and laughing helps the mind stay calm. For older adults, experts suggest group activities such as joining a club, volunteering, etc. Take some time out to be active and engaged in different activities to help the brain stay active.
5. Good Sleep
One of the most commonly reported signs of dementia and Alzheimer’s patients is insomnia and sleep disturbances. In fact, insufficient and improper sleep is not just a symptom of the condition but also a risk factor that increases one’s risk of developing dementia.
Recent studies suggest that poor and interrupted sleep encourages the buildup of certain proteins in the brain, which contribute to Alzheimer’s disease and other memory issues. Good, uninterrupted sleep helps clear the brain’s protein burden, thereby reducing the risk of Alzheimer’s development.
Dementia is not a disease; it is a condition that can be effectively managed although not wholly curable. Adopting these 5 healthy habits can help prevent dementia or delay the onset and progression of symptoms in older adults. Make the shift to a healthier lifestyle and reap the multitude of benefits that come with it.
Ashley Rosa is a freelance writer and blogger. As writing is her passion, that why she loves to write articles related to the latest trends in technology and sometimes on health-tech as well. She is crazy about chocolates. You can find her at twitter: @ashrosa2.