While dementia is, to a large extent, determined by genetics, it’s well recognised that positive lifestyle changes can have a significant impact on reducing the risk of developing it later in life.
1. Stay active
According to the Alzheimer’s Research and Prevention Foundation, being active can reduce your chances of getting dementia by up to 50%. It’s recommended that you do 150 minutes of exercise a week – so 30 minutes, five days a week. Tai chi, yoga, walking and swimming are all good options and it’s a good idea to do a mixture of cardio, strength, balance and coordination exercises.
But, first and foremost, make sure whichever exercise you choose, it’s something you enjoy or you’ll never make it a habit.
2. Challenge your brain
Keeping your body active is one thing, but it’s important to keep the grey matter fit too. Increased blood flow to the brain helps to keep it functioning as normal – it needs regular workouts in the same way that your body does. Learn a new skill, take a language course and chat to new people. Don’t underestimate the value of word games, memory challenges and Sudoku. Research has shown that staying mentally active can help to ensure that your cognitive behaviour doesn’t diminish, which will lower your risk of developing dementia symptoms.
3. Be social
Loneliness is a killer. It not only affects our mental health but our physical health too. As we age, it’s more important than ever not to become socially isolated and to reinforce relationships with loved ones and perhaps reconnect with old friends.
It’s never too late to make new friends by getting involved in volunteering or joining other social groups in your local area. While nothing can beat face-to-face contact, if your mobility is restricted or there’s another reason you can’t meet in person, these days there are plenty of online options to help you stay in touch, like Skype, Facebook, and online communities, like Gransnet.
4. Don’t let stress get to you
Managing stress and anxiety can go a long way to keeping dementia at bay. Chronic stress can actually damage certain areas of the brain that affect thinking, memory and emotional response so it’s important to monitor how you react to particularly tough situations. Daily relaxation exercises can be a good antidote to stress and stand you in good stead to deal with excessive anxiety should it occur.