There is no known cure for dementia. In fact, we aren’t completely sure why the disease develops in some people and not in others. Heredity does influence a person’s chance of developing the disease; however, it is not the only marker. Because of this, medical professionals place a high importance on reducing your risk of developing the disease in the first place – your best line of defense.
“Experts believe that lifestyle and environment play a significant role in your risk of developing dementia,” says Heather Battey, Executive Director at amavida in Fort Myers, Florida. “Although aging is the biggest risk factor – and there’s nothing we can do about that! – the Alzheimer’s Association lists a variety of factors that can affect your risk, such as diet, physical fitness and lifestyle choices.”
Heather says that it’s never too late to start practicing healthy habits to keep your brain and body in shape. “As we age, being kind to our bodies is more important than ever. Luckily for us, the things we can do to reduce our risk factor of dementia are the same things doctors recommend for healthy aging overall. At amavida, our Memory Care community in Fort Myers, we have a high focus on health and wellness at any age and any stage. From our Independent Living residents to our Dementia Care residents, we provide healthy lifestyle options, engaging activities and events and so much more to make this chapter of your life rewarding, rich and active.”
Here are five things you can start doing right now to reduce your risk of developing dementia.
1. Get fit and stay physically active.
Regular physical activity is one of the best things you can do to live a healthy life. Even 10 to 15 minutes a day (to start) is enough to get your blood pumping, your muscles moving and your life improving. Besides helping you stay trim, regular exercise has a slew of benefits, including reducing your risk of chronic disease including diabetes, improving your mood and mental state, keeping your heart in shape, strengthening your balance and muscles to avoid falls, improving your metabolism … the list goes on and on. Not to mention it helps you look and feel younger!
The best form of exercise is one that works for you. If you dread exercising, the likelihood is high that you’ll burn out and end up in worse shape than when you began. Experts recommend a mix of aerobic and resistance activities to improve blood flow and strengthen muscles. If you’re not exercising already, ease into it by doing a small amount each day and gradually increasing.
With aerobic activities, you should shoot for either 150 minutes of moderate activity or 75 minutes of vigorous activity a week. Moderate activity includes mowing your lawn, taking a brisk walk, riding a bike at a leisurely pace and the like. Vigorous activity includes lap swimming, jogging and more high-impact activities.
Resistance activities should be done at least twice a week to build up your strength. Lifting weights is an obvious choice, as are sit-ups and push-ups, but you can also do things like gardening, cleaning out your closet or anything that requires you to do repetitive motions that engage your muscles. Finally, you can also do activities that combine both resistance and aerobics, such as running, basketball, power yoga and others.
2. Eat a healthy diet.
Eating a balanced diet full of nutrients and all the good things your body needs can reduce your risk of dementia as well as significantly reducing your risk for diseases like obesity, diabetes, cancer, heart disease and so many others. Think of your diet as fuel – if you put good stuff in, you’ll get good results in return.
While there are many fad diets out there touting this benefit or that, seniors should focus on some common-sense approaches to eating a healthy diet. Eat lots of fruits and veggies, fill up on lean protein like fish, beans, eggs and chicken, reduce your sugar and salt intake, choose whole-grain options instead of simple starches, eat good fats like avocados and nuts, and drink plenty of water.
3. Avoid vices.
If you smoke – stop now. Not only will quitting smoking reduce your risk of developing dementia, but it will also greatly reduce your risk of developing multiple cancers, diabetes cardiovascular disease and so much more. And while having the occasional glass of wine can be beneficial to your health, drinking too much can increase your risk of cognitive damage. By limiting or eliminating your vices, you’re doing your body and mind a huge favor.
4. Exercise your mind.
Keeping your mind sharp and active doesn’t only keep you healthy – it keeps you happy. Seniors who find enjoyable, meaningful activities, hobbies and opportunities have a better quality of life than their counterparts who don’t. Remember, your brain is like a muscle – if you don’t exercise it, you’re likely to get out of shape. Challenging your brain is what keeps us young and is helpful no matter how old we are. In fact, research has shown that mentally stimulating activities have benefits even for individuals in the later stages of dementia.
The important thing is to pick hobbies and activities that you enjoy and will stretch your abilities. Things like puzzles, crosswords or quizzes are great to do on your own. But you can also try something you’ve always wanted to do, like learn a new language, take a woodworking class, start a book club or volunteer for your favorite organization. Activities such as these keep your mind active, and also keep you socially active – yet another great factor for helping keep dementia at bay.
5. Visit your doctor regularly.
Visiting your medical professionals regularly can help you fend off issues before they become serious. Your annual wellness visit is a good time to get your baseline tested, ensure that you’re taking the right medications for your issues and see what else can be done to improve your health. For the rest of the year, don’t brush off health issues or illnesses – schedule an appointment and see your doctor as soon as you can.
For more information about good habits that can help you reduce your dementia risk, contact us today at 877.969.0712.