An aging population results in a growing number of people living with dementia (a term that includes some symptoms such as memory impairment, confusion, and loss of ability to perform daily activities).
Alzheimer's disease is the most common form of dementia, and results in progressive brain health retardation. The main risk of dementia is old age. About 30 percent of people aged over 85 in Australia live with dementia.
In addition, genetic or hereditary factors also contribute to early disease, but are stronger in the less common type of dementia, such as early Alzheimer's disease (which strikes at a young age).
We cannot reduce our age or genetic profile, but fortunately there are some lifestyle that can be changed to lower the risk of dementia.
1. Engage in mental stimulating activities.
Education is an important determinant in the risk of dementia. Someone who tastes less than 10 years of formal education have a greater chance of dementia. Those who do not graduate from junior high school or equivalent have the highest risk.
But do not panic. We can still strengthen our brains at any age, through achievements in the work world and fun activities, such as reading a newspaper, playing cards, or learning new skills or languages.
There is some evidence to suggest that group exercises to train memory and problem-solving strategies can improve our long-term cognitive function. But the same results may not necessarily be found through "brain exercises" that exist in computer programs because mental stimulating activities in group / social conditions may also contribute to successful cognitive exercise.
2. Maintain social relationships.
More frequent social contacts (such as visiting friends or relatives or chatting on the phone) are associated with lower risk of dementia. Conversely, loneliness may increase the risk of dementia.
Greater engagement in group or community activities is also associated with lower risk. Interestingly, the number of friends is not very relevant than the frequency of relationships with others.
3. Maintain weight and heart health.
There is a close connection between brain and heart health. High blood pressure and obesity, especially in middle age, increase the risk of dementia.
When combined, these two conditions play a role in more than 12% of cases of dementia.
In a data analysis of more than 40,000 patients, those with type 2 diabetes were twice as likely to have dementia as those who were healthy.
Maintaining or reversing this condition with drugs or diet and physical exercise is very important in reducing the risk of dementia.
4. Practice more often.
Physical activity has been shown to protect us from cognitive decline. From combined data of over 33,000 people, those who were physically active had a 38% lower risk of cognitive decline than those who did not.
The exact amount of exercise that is sufficient to maintain cognitive ability is debatable. But a recent study review studying the effects of practicing for at least four weeks suggests that one training session should last no less than 45 minutes with medium to high loads.
5. Stop smoking.
Smoking is harmful to heart health, and the chemicals contained in a cigarette trigger inflammation and alteration of the brain.
Smoking can also trigger oxidative stress, namely the destruction of our body cells due to chemicals called free radicals. This process has contributed to the formation of dementia.
There is a higher risk of dementia in smokers than non-smokers or ex-smokers, which gives us a reason to leave cigarettes altogether.
6. Seeking help when depressed.
About one million Australians currently live with depression. When we are depressed, some changes occur in the brain that may affect the risk of dementia. High levels of stress hormone cortisol have been associated with shrinking of areas of the brain that are important for memory.
Disease that damages blood vessels has also been observed in depression and dementia. Researchers say long-term oxidative stress and inflammation can contribute to both conditions.