Maintain Mental Fitness with Movejoy: How to Avoid Dementia

Gianna Wurzl

As we age, our mind, like the rest of our body, changes. This is normal, but some people experience more dramatic changes than others. Dementia is a broad term that refers to a decline in mental ability severe enough to interfere with daily life. It can cause problems with memory, language skills, judgment and other cognitive functions.  Some people may have difficulty remembering recent events or following directions, while others will require help performing everyday tasks, like dressing or managing medication properly.

There is a misconception that dementia is just part of getting old, however, research has shown that there are lifestyle behaviours and ways to prevent dementia. According to Alzheimer's charity organisations, around 40% of all cases of dementia can be prevented by modifiable factors which are choices that we make every day. We will reveal 5 of the main lifestyle differences that can play a vital part in either avoiding or delaying dementia.

1.  Sleep

Sleep is important for mental health, memory and learning. Sleep helps us stay physically healthy by reducing stress and keeping our hearts healthy. A lack of sleep can lead to weight gain as well as increased risk of high blood pressure, diabetes and cardiovascular disease. The National Institutes of Health says that people with chronic pain who get insufficient sleep may have worse pain, more fatigue and greater difficulty functioning. Sleep deprivation can also affect your mood, behaviour, concentration and memory and it may increase the likelihood of depression. Sleep disturbances are common among people with anxiety disorders and mental health challenges.

A study by Harvard Medical School showed the importance of getting at least six to eight hours of sleep every single night. The results of the study indicated that those who didn’t have enough sleep were at least twice as likely to develop dementia and to die early. The same study was replicated in Europe, and it proved that the difference of two hours more sleep from five to seven hours from ages 50 and above meant 30% less likely to develop dementia. Other worldwide studies have since shown a strong correlation between sleep deprivation and increased health risks like dementia.

There are many strategies that you can adopt today to help you sleep better. Remember, it is never too late to start new habits.

2.  Healthy weight

Another way to reduce your risks of dementia is to make sure you stay at a healthy weight and eat a balanced diet. If you eat too many servings of carbohydrates or fats, large amounts of sugar or processed food, your body will convert this sugar into fat for storage. Weight gain can cause lots of different health risks but studies have shown that at least a third (34%) have more risk of dementia from being overweight.

The contribution of damaging proteins in the brain from body fat is a linked factor. To reduce the risks of dementia maintaining a healthy weight through diet, exercise and balance is key.

3.  Eating well

Eating a healthy diet rich in fruits and vegetables can help you to reduce the risk of developing dementia. Fruits and vegetables are good for your brain because they're rich in vitamins and minerals, including:

  • Vitamin C (oranges) helps prevent oxidative damage to the brain cells
  • Folate (green leafy vegetables) helps to make new nerve cells
  • Potassium (bananas) may lower blood pressure which reduces risk of stroke
  • Omega3 fatty acids from oily fish or flax seeds have been shown to improve memory function in people with mild cognitive impairment
  • Eating foods that are high in fibre, such as fruits and vegetables, low-fat dairy products, whole grains like brown rice or quinoa, nuts/seeds like walnuts or pumpkin seeds are all good sources of nutrients that promote brain health.

Recent studies have shown that Mediterranean diets which are high in cereals, fruits, and vegetables and low in fat, sugar and meat can improve memory and risks of cognitive impairment. In this article shared by the National Institute of Ageing, it states that over an average of four and a half years, individuals who followed the Mediterranean diet had over halved (53%) their risks of developing dementia to those that did not adhere to the diet.

4.   Regular mental and physical exercise

One of the most proven ways to reduce lots of health risks including dementia, is to regularly exercise both your body and mind. Staying active both mentally and physically means that there are more proteins in the brain that enhance connections between neurons and increase blood flow to the brain. This brain stimulation is so vital as over 11 studies have shown conclusive evidence that regular exercise can reduce the risk of dementia by 30% and by 45% specifically for Alzheimer’s disease.

Exercises for the mind including crossword puzzles, reading books, doing brainteasers, or playing chess can help increase memory skills. Physical activities include dancing, running and swimming as well as walking outside in natural environments such as parks or on beaches helps to positively stimulate the brain as well. These are just some examples of healthy ways to keep the brain active.

If exercise isn’t a regular part of your routine, start with stretching and work up to more vigorous activity over time.  Being agile will give you the confidence to take on more activities that have so many benefits for your overall physical and mental health.

5.  Don't smoke or drink alcohol

One of the key things you can do to avoid dementia is not harm both your body and brain by smoking or drinking. These two things can damage the brain, so if you want to stay healthy for as long as possible it's best to avoid them both. Over the last couple of years, studies have revealed that smokers are 30% more likely to develop dementia than those that don’t. In addition to increasing your risk of developing dementia, tobacco use can increase your chances of having a stroke (a condition where part of your brain doesn't get enough blood) and other cardiovascular diseases such as heart attack or high blood pressure.

Alcohol consumption has similar effects and excessive amounts can lead to strokes and damage parts of the nervous system including the brain. There are proven health benefits in socialising and community, and drinking alcohol is often a part of this. So, it’s important to be aware and remain healthy to offset our “guilty pleasures”.


Take action with your lifestyle choices today …

Dementia is a serious condition that can affect anyone at any age, despite it being most common in the later decades of one’s life. The good news is that there are many things you can do to help prevent this disease from developing in the first place and it’s never too late to start.