The prospect of living with dementia can be quite scary. We’ve all witnessed the debilitating symptoms it can cause and sadly, it’s becoming increasingly common. By 2025, it is thought that over a million Brits will be living with dementia.
Despite aggressive efforts to combat dementia, figures suggest occurrences of the illness will continue to rise. The primary problem with dementia is that, once it appears, it can be very difficult to combat. Those already displaying symptoms are unlikely to see much success from treatment.
Dementia is very difficult to treat for a number of reasons. To begin with, it’s not actually a single disease, but a condition caused by many different illnesses: over 50 in total. We are also a long way off fully understanding how the human brain truly works and how we can aid its development — and fight the diseases that threaten it.
The result is that once the degeneration caused by dementia starts, it’s difficult to slow-down and nearly impossible to stop. However, this article isn’t all doom and gloom. There are actually plenty of things you can do to ward off dementia and keep your mind healthier for longer.
It’s all about preemptive action.
Taking the fight to dementia before the symptoms appear is the best way to avoid the illness. This means the time to act is now.
Who Is at Risk of Dementia?
Anyone can get dementia, even young people. However, the risk is highest in:
- Those over the age of 65
- People who are genetically susceptible
- Individuals in poor health
We should all consider taking steps to reduce our risk of developing dementia. But those who fall under the above categories should take even greater care to fight off symptoms before they start.
But how can you do that?
How to Lower Your Chances and Delay Dementia Onset
Lowering your chances of getting dementia isn’t about employing crazy new-age techniques or taking dangerous and experimental drugs — far from it. However, delaying dementia onset is about creating a healthy mind that is capable of fighting off degeneration. Imagine your brain as a boxer and the symptoms of dementia as a series of competitors. The better shape your mind is in, the better your performance and the longer you can go for.
Diet and Exercise
It’s the cure for everything, right? Diet and exercise.
Well, sort of, yeah.
A healthy lifestyle is conducive to fighting off dementia symptoms. Exercise releases chemicals that nourish the brain, while a good diet fuels it with the nutrients it needs to stay fighting fit and repair any damage that may be caused.
If your brain is the engine that keeps you going, regular exercise and a healthy diet is the general maintenance that prevents it from failing. You can go a little further than this, however.
Some supplements, like amino acids and B-vitamins, are brain-boosters that can be hard to get enough of in a balanced diet. However, they are also tough for the body to absorb. High levels can be beneficial to fighting dementia, but always check with your doctor before taking more than the recommended daily allowance.
Train Your Brain
Stimulating the mind doesn’t stop at learning your times tables or wracking up general knowledge to ace the next pub quiz. Actively using and challenging your brain helps it become stronger. Just like exercise conditions your body, brain training conditions your mind.
Mentally stimulating activities like brain training games and apps, socialising, reading and writing, learning new skills that require mental input or engaging in further education programs are known to fortify the mind. They help improve everything from concentration and memory to mood and self-confidence.
Boosting brain power and using the mind has been shown to have a significant effect on staving off dementia and even reduce the severity of early symptoms. The stronger and more complex the construct of your brain, the harder it is for dementia to tear down.
It will come as no surprise that injury to the brain can increase the speed at which dementia takes hold. Injury impacts the health of your precious mind and weakness is something dementia feeds on. However, there are a few different types of injury to worry about.
Trauma, such as whacks to the head, can lead to long-term issues that result in a higher chance of developing dementia. The trick is obviously to protect your head. Be sensible, wear a helmet when appropriate and take care of yourself.
Other injuries to the brain can be caused by different factors. Excessive alcohol consumption can lead to damaged brain cells, making it easier for dementia to affect them. Smoking also causes similar problems, as does high blood pressure.
Sleep is the great healer of the brain. After a long day, the mind becomes worn and fragile. You need to let it rest up and recover. During this time, not only does your brain rejuvenate, but regenerate. During sleep, new pathways are formed, allowing us to better consolidate memories. Conversely, a lack of sleep doesn’t allow recovery and growth to happen as it should.
As a result, studies show that those who sleep less have an increased risk of dementia. Making time for sleep should be a priority, not something you skimp on. While it is recommended you get 8 hours a night, don’t panic if you can’t. Everyone is different — while some people thrive on 6 hours of sleep, others will need 9 to feel fully refreshed.
The point is to get the amount of sleep your mind needs to feel well-rested. Dedicate enough time in your day to getting the amount of sleep your body needs. This means going to bed early enough that you can wake naturally and not struggle to meet your alarm.
Stress is a major problem for millions of Brits. This news won’t make you any more relaxed, but stress has been found to increase the prevalence of dementia. A problem affecting your mental welfare — it makes sense that stress would lead to a rise in dementia. But how exactly does this happen?
Chronic stress and anxiety has been shown to cause damage to the parts of the brain responsible for conscious thinking, memory and emotional response. It also suppresses the release of chemicals like serotonin that help to heal the brain, and instead releases a chemical called cortisol — your body’s main stress hormone — which has been shown to cause some types of memory loss.
Collaborative article provided by the team at Abney & Baker‘