At the age of 60, only about 5% of adults suffer from dementia, but by the age of 80, the
proportion rises to a worrying 20%. Most cases of dementia are due to Alzheimer’s disease. The symptoms are general memory loss followed by progressive irreversible loss of intellectual function. Unfortunately, there are currently no effective treatments for it.
We cannot change the fact that we grow older and neither can we change the known genetic disposition to the disease. But there is some budding hope that we may be able to delay the onset of symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease. We now know that our lifestyle can have a major impact on the health of our brains.
By following some simple rules to protect our brains, we may actually be able to delay the
symptoms of dementia, and hopefully have more dementia-free years. So here are some important tips on how to lower the risk of dementia as you age.
- Be active: exercise allows the small blood vessels in your brain to remain healthy. It
stimulates new connections between neurons and new nerve cells may even be created.
Aim for 30 minutes of moderate activity per day.
- Eat healthily: a diet rich in cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cabbage, kale etc) and fruits rich in antioxidants (berries) is linked with a lower rate of cognitive decline. Following a mediterranean diet is also known to protect the brain; this diet is rich in vegetables, fruits, legumes, oily fish and olive oil. Green tea may slow brain ageing and keep mental alertness. On the other hand, saturated fats and refined sugars are best avoided.
- Stimulate your brain: keeping your brain active with mentally challenging tasks keeps the neurons healthy and protects from cognitive decline. This can be through reading books, playing games, crossword puzzles, attending lectures, learning something new everyday, practice music or foreign languages throughout your life. Vary your habits regularly, practice memorisation to challenge your brain daily.
- Have a rich social life: people who have regular social interactions seem to be less prone to dementia. Regular mental, physical and cognitive stimulation and reduced stress induces optimal brain function. Keep in touch with your family, friends and neighbours.
- Sleep well: sleep is essential to memory formation and information processing to allow your brain to function at its full potential. Try to sleep a minimum of eight hours every night.
Researchers are hoping that by following this simple ‘healthy brain recipe’, we may slow down, delay, or even hopefully prevent this devastating disease. So start giving your brain a workout now and stave off Alzheimer’s disease later!
Dr Isabelle Benard
Private GP, The Medical Chambers Kensington
10 Knaresborough Place SW5 0JN
0207 244 4200