9 Things You Can Do To Reduce Dementia Risk

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9 Things You Can Do To Reduce Dementia Risk
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Aging is humanity’s greatest fear. Take my word for it; in recent years, we have seen various medical advancements made in order to prolong human life, from high-end drugs to innovative surgical procedures. A more aesthetic approach to fighting ageing can be seen in the thousands of beauty products sold every day, marketed to age groups as early as people in their twenties in order to help fight off wrinkles, saggy skin, and age spots. However, at the end of the day these are just skin deep and we now need to focus on the one hallmark sign of ageing: declining mental health.

In July 2018, the World Health Organization raised a very important concern: with over 50 million people worldwide affected by dementia, it still isn’t considered a public health priority. Only a few countries all over the world put dementia as one of their top health priorities and have actual plans to help address this growing concern. In response to this, the World Health Organization has released “Towards a dementia plan: a WHO guide”, which aims for the following by 2025: [1]

1. Dementia as a public health priority: 75 percent of countries would have developed national policies and the like for dementia
2. Dementia awareness and friendliness: 100 percent of countries would have functioning public awareness campaigns on dementia and 50 percent of countries would have at least one dementia-focused initiative
3. Dementia risk reduction: Risk reduction targets from the 2013 to 2020 global action plan for prevention and control are achieved
4. Dementia diagnosis, treatment, and care: 50 percent of people with dementia are correctly and timely diagnosed, in at least 50 percent of countries
5. Support for dementia carers: 75 percent of countries provide support and training for people and families caring for people with dementia
6. Information systems of dementia: 50 percent of countries routinely collect data on the various indicators of dementia
7. Dementia research and innovation: Double global research output on dementia between 2017 and 2025

Dementia: Are you bound to get it?

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, dementia is not a disease, per se, but a decline in mental health. It is characterized various signs and symptoms that can become severe enough to affect a person’s activities of daily living. Problems with memory, reasoning, focus, and visual perception are just a few symptoms that people with dementia experience. So, here’s the answer to your question “Am I bound to get dementia?”: No. Dementia is not a normal part of ageing and not everyone who hits 60 years old and above are affected by it. [2]

Dementia is caused primarily by damage to your brain cells and how they communicate information with each other. You brain cells can become damaged because of a decrease in blood flow through stroke, trauma, or even the gradual damage of blood vessels because of diabetes and hypertension. This type of dementia is called vascular dementia. [3]

9 Things You Can Do To Decrease Your Risk For Developing Dementia

1) Drink Green Tea: The next time you crave a hot cup of coffee, try to reach for green tea instead! A study conducted in Japan in 2014 focused specifically on cognitive decline in the elderly population, aged older than 60 years. The researchers focused on three common drinks: green tea, coffee, and black tea; they found that green alone was able to significantly reduce an elderly’s person’s risk for cognitive decline, even after adjusting for confounding factors. [4]

2) Add Avocados To Your Diet: Social media has boosted the “avocado toast” craze among millennials and yuppies but there might be more truth to their health claims than you think. Aside from your typical leafy green vegetables, avocados are also rich in lutein, a nutrient that is essential to the human diet because it can’t be produced by the human body. According to research, lutein can also be found brain tissue, and decreased amounts of lutein can cause a decline in mental health and abilities. [5]

3) Get Into Mediterranean Food: The nutritional benefits from Mediterranean diets include better bone health, better cardiovascular health, and a reduced risk for diabetes and high blood pressure.New research presented at the Alzheimer’s Association International conference found that healthy older adults who ate a Mediterranean diet decreased their dementia risk by a third—approximately 30 to 35 percent. The study’s lead researcher, Claire McEvoy, associated the vegetable content in a Mediterranean diet with “lower risk of cognitive impairment”.

4) Quit Weekend Drinking: In fact, it may be better to quit drinking alcoholic beverages. While other studies suggest that moderate drinking could possibly beneficial to your health, a new study begs to differ. Published recently in the British Medical Journal, researchers found that heavier alcoholic drinkers experienced faster cognitive impairment, manifesting as a decline in language skills and poor white matter integrity. White matter is a part of the brain which helps thought processing. Furthermore, heavier drinkers also experienced brain tissue atrophy, which contributes to the cognitive decline. This particular study followed a group of British Civil Servants, tracking their disease and social behaviors over 30 years. [6]

5) Have A Healthy Sex Life: Regular sexual activity has been linked to better cognitive health, according to a research published from the University of Oxford and Coventry University. The researchers from Oxford compared data from adults aged between 50 and 83 years old, comparing their sexual activity with general brainpower, mainly attention, memory, fluency, language, and visuospatial ability. The researchers found a significant correlation between the two, wherein people who engaged in weekly sexual activity fared better on the mental health assessment exam, specifically in verbal fluency and overall cognition. Similarly, researchers from Coventry University published their research back in 2016 and found that older men who engaged in more sexual activity scored higher in tests involving word-recall and number sequencing. [7]

6) Get A Better Night’s Sleep: Recent research has found that poor sleep quality is linked to Alzheimer’s disease, because of an increase in amount of proteins in brain tissue that is associated with said disease. According to the study, interrupting deep sleep can cause plaques to form in the brain, which can lead to cognitive impairment. On the other hand, good sleep quality (not just a long period of sleep) which involves entering the REM or rapid eye movement stage is associated with less protein release and therefore risk reduction in plaque formation in the brain, hence better brain health. [8]

Adjusting your diet to prevent dementia means including the following nutrients:

7) Omega-3 Fatty Acids: They aren’t just good for your heart! A review of various studies published over the years concluded that adequate intake of omega-3 rich food can reduce the risk for dementia and Alzheimer’s, and can even improve the symptoms present in adults affected by mild cases of Alzheimer’s disease. You can easily find omega-3 fatty acids in flaxseeds, salmon, walnuts, and chia seeds. [9]

8) Flavonoids: Flavonoids are antioxidants that can be found in different berries like blueberries, and even red wine. A few studies have suggested that flavonoids play a role in cognitive health and that their intake can prevent or reduce the risk for dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. This kind of antioxidant counteracts that damage done by proteins in the brain that cause plaque creation through its significant anti-inflammatory properties. [10]

9) Folate: Folate (B9) is a typical supplement taken by pregnant women to improve their baby’s brain health. However, folate can also improve brain health in adults and prevent neurodegenerative atrophy of brain tissue. You can find folate in beets, lentils, spinach, and chickpeas. While the effects of this particular supplement on brain health is still being researched, it can be a stepping point for more research to be conducted, especially if folate is already seen as beneficial to humans growing in the womb.

References:

[1] World Health Organization (2018). Towards a dementia plan: a WHO guide. http://apps.who.int/iris/bitstream/handle/10665/272642/9789241514132-eng.pdf?ua=1

[2] Alzheimer’s Association. What Is Dementia? https://www.alz.org/alzheimers-dementia/what-is-dementia

[3] Mayo Clinic. Vascular dementia. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/vascular-dementia/symptoms-causes/syc-20378793

[4] Noguchi-Shinohara, M., et. al. (2014). Consumption of green tea, but not black tea or coffee, is associated with reduced risk of cognitive decline. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24828424

[5] Walk, A., et. al. (2017). The Role of Retinal Carotenoids and Age on Neuroelectric Indices of Attentional Control among Early to Middle-Aged Adults. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/07/170725122004.htm

[6] Topiwala, A., et. al. (2017). Moderate alcohol consumption as risk factor for adverse brain outcomes and cognitive decline: longitudinal cohort study. https://www.bmj.com/content/357/bmj.j2353

[7] Wring, H., Jenks, R., & Demeyere, N. (2017). Frequent Sexual Activity Predicts Specific Cognitive Abilities in Older Adults. https://academic.oup.com/psychsocgerontology/advance-article/doi/10.1093/geronb/gbx065/3869292

[8] Ju, Yo-El (2017). Slow wave sleep disruption increases cerebrospinal fluid amyloid-B levels. https://www.webmd.com/sleep-disorders/news/20170710/sleep-disturbances-linked-to-alzheimers-risk

[9] Canhada, S., et. al. (2018). Omega-3 fatty acids’ supplementation in Alzheimer’s disease: A systematic review. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28466678

[10] Baptista, F., et. al. (2014). Flavonoids as Therapeutic Compounds Targeting Key Proteins Involved in Alzheimer’s Disease. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3930994/

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