Dementia Action Week is on 16 to 22 September. Dementia is a condition that affects a person’s thinking, behaviour and ability to perform everyday tasks, it is an umbrella term that describes a collection of symptoms, not one specific disease; there are over 100 different causes of dementia. The most common causes are Alzheimer’s disease, vascular dementia and dementia with Lewy bodies.
Since vascular dementia is the second most common type of dementia, it is important to look after your heart health. You need healthy blood vessels and good circulation around the body and to the brain. If you have inflamed or damaged arteries and/or high blood pressure, you are at higher risk of vascular dementia. Here are some tips to reduce your risk of developing dementia:
Move your body
Sitting is now being referred to as “the new smoking”. Movement is important to control your blood sugar levels, keep muscles and bones strong, eliminate toxins and encourages a healthy heart, healthy brain and healthy circulation.
Use it or lose it
It is important to continue to mentally challenge your brain, learn something new. Learning allows you to build new brain cells and strengthen connections between them.
Manage your stress
Long term chronic stress can have a very detrimental effect on your brain. Stress drives inflammation, insulin resistance and cardiovascular disease which can all contribute to dementia. We can’t always change what happens in life but we can learn useful strategies in how to respond to those events.
It is also important to focus on overall health because if you get the other foundations of health right (sleep, movement, eating, connection). If you are physically and mentally strong then you will be more likely to manage stress well and bounce back from stressful situations a whole lot better.
We now know that good relationships are protective to the brain, therefore it is very important to nurture good relationships. Results published from an 80+ year study on what makes a good life found that people who are more socially connected to family, to friends, to community, are happier, they’re physically healthier, and they live longer than people who are less well connected. People who are more isolated than they want to be from others find that they are less happy, their health declines earlier in midlife, their brain functioning declines sooner and they live shorter lives than people who are not lonely.
Eat for brain and heart health
Avocadoes, cold pressed extra virgin olive oil, oily fish, eggs, grass fed beef, chicken, walnuts, sunflower seeds, pepitas, fresh beetroot, eat a rainbow, loads of greens and blueberries.
Ultra-processed foods (muffins, biscuits, cakes, pies, confectionary). Be aware of how much sugar is in your diet, have no more than 6 teaspoons per day to maintain good health. Check food labels for sugar, 4g is 1 teaspoon so 6 teaspoons is 24g. High amounts of sugar in the diet can lead to inflammation, cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure and insulin resistance which can all contribute to dementia.
It is also important to note that people who drink too much alcohol are at risk of dementia and severe B vitamin deficiencies which can permanently damage the brain. Smoking also is a big contributor to dementia.
Unfortunately we can’t control the genes we inherit but we can have a big influence on whether those genes turn on or off with our diet and lifestyle!
Nutritional Medicine Practitioner, Holistic Counsellor and Transformational Life Coach