New research shows making simple lifestyle changes can significantly cut out risk of dementia. Talk to the experts to find out how….
Encouraging new research from the International Conference on Alzheimer’s by 25 per cent. “Adjustments to your lifestyle can slow down mental decline.
Here are top five moves…
1. Check Your Blood Pressure
We all know that high blood pressure increase the risk of stroke, but it can also triple the risk of developing dementia. Alzheimer’s is the most common form of dementia, but it is followed by vascular dementia, caused by poor blood flow to the brain. “Your blood delivers oxygen, glucose and nutrients to your brain.” she explains, “so keeping our arteries flowing is essential.”
What To Do Have your blood pressure check regularly. If the bottom number is 90 or over and the top is 145 or above, talk to your doctor about the best ways to get it down. These includes stopping smoking, reducing added salt and processed food, exercising regularly and trying to minimise stress. If this hasn’t worked after a month, your doctor may prescribe blood pressure-lowering medication. Other conditions that increase risk of vascular dementia include a high level of LDL or bad cholesterol and type-2 diabetes. These increase damage to small blood vessels so the crucial blood supply is compromised. The good news is that once these conditions are treated, your risk returns to normal.
2. Beef up your Bs
Brain shrinkage is a component of increased dementia risk, and new research funded by Alzheimer’s Research found some people with memory problems who took vitamin B12 supplements slowed the rate at which their brains were shrinking. “There is a strong connection between vitamin B12 and brain health”.
What To Do Unless your doctor has tested your homocysteine levels and suggested a supplement, you can get your daily intake from food. “The RDA of 1.5 mg is easy”. “Try beef, shellfish and eggs.” Soya milk is great for vegetarians who need a supplement, such as Higher Nature B12.
3. Get walking
Many of us are already upping our walking, but yet more evidence is accumulating for the health benefits of the humble walk. Among countless studies showing that moderate exercise can decrease your risk of age-related memory loss and all forms of dementia by up to 45 per cent, one in particular from Japan found that walking or running two miles daily I could lower risk by almost half. “Exercise stimulates cognition and is brain protective”. The body secretes protective chemicals during physical activity including a protein called brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), thought to spark the growth of neurons. Alzheimer’s disease is a gradual loss of total number of neurons in the brain. Other ways to spark the growth of new neurons include ballroom dancing, joining a choir, learning a musical instrument – in fact, learning anything that’s new to you can help – and playing team sports; things that involve coordination, using all your senses together and cooperation with other people improve the pathways in all the different parts of the brain. Plus, a recent Brazilian study found that those who combine aerobic activity such as running, cycling or walking with strength training had improved learning and memory and higher levels of BDNF.
What To Do “The great news is that only 30 minutes walking or 20 minutes cycling continuously and briskly enough to break a sweat is adequate for the benefits. If you can, add strength-training using resistance bands, light dumbbells or your own body weight in circuit-style training with moves such as squats, lunges and press-ups for about 20 minutes twice a week for even more protection. But don’t overdo it. Keep it regular and moderate, take at least one day off a week and if you can, exercise with friends – socialising is also key to lowering your risk of dementia in all its forms.
4. Be Savvy About Facts
You already know the connection between trans-fat and heart disease. Now, new research published in the medical journal Neurology has found that those who ate a diet consistently high in trans-fat-rich fast food had lower scores on brain tests and more grey matter shrinkage typical of Alzheimer’s disease. “A diet high in trans-fat can increase levels of LDL cholesterol, which may increase your risk of developing vascular dementia, the second most common dementia after Alzheimer’s”. But the same study found a diet rich in healthy fats – omega-3s in particular from oily fish – could have the opposite effect. Your brain is the fattest organ is the body and the body and covered in a fat called the myelin sheath, which acts as an insulator to keep electrical impulses travelling along the nerve pathways correctly.
What To Do Avoid anything with the word “hydrogenated” in its ingredients, as this will mean it contains trans-fat. The most brain protective form of fat is the omega-3 variety, especially essential fatty acids found in oily fish. Having only two servings of a 140 gram filet of salmon, mackerel, halibut, sardines or fresh tune (not the canned variety) provide your weekly intake. If you hate fish, look for a supplement, such as Biocare Mega, EPA Forte
5. Understand Homocysteine
Homocysteine is an amino acid found in blood and created in response to eating protein. High levels have long been associated with heart problems, but now strong evidence is emerging between high homocysteine levels and memory loss, decreased cognitive function and a higher risk of Alzheimer’s disease. One Australian study found that eating folate-rich foods was associated with memory recall, and after just five weeks of upping their folate intake through foods, participants in the study showed overall improvements in memory.
What To Do There is still not enough evidence to take supplements. If you are having memory problems, however, talk to your doctor about having your homocysteine levels checked with a blood test. Meanwhile, advise eating a diet rich in folate and B12 vitamins to keep levels low. “Along with vitamins B12 and B6, folate is the third nutrient crucial to keeping homocysteine levels low. It’s found in green vegetables such as spinach, kale, asparagus, Brussel’s sprouts and broccoli, but brown rice, peas and oranges are rich sources too.”
+ Researchers are not certain how being very overweight adds to your risk of developing Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia, but there is increasing evidence that it does. One theory is that too much of the hormone insulin in the brain, which can be caused by being obese or overweight, may stimulate the build-up of “beta amyloid” plaques found in the brains of those with Alzheimer’s.