Six ways to reduce your risk of dementia

178538469Dementia can be devastating and currently there is no cure, but to coincide with Dementia Awareness Week 2014, the Alzheimer’s Society suggests six things you can start doing now to reduce your risk of developing the condition.

Get in shape

Regular exercise can reduce your risk of developing dementia by up to a third, making it the best single measure you can take. By keeping fit you are providing your brain with a strong blood supply, helping it to function well now and in years to come.  Government guidelines recommend exercising moderately for 150 minutes a week in frequent, short bursts.  Even a brisk walk or bike ride counts – so no more excuses!

Stick to a Mediterranean diet

A ‘Mediterranean diet’ (lots of fresh fruit and vegetables, low in saturated fat, olive oil, nuts, fish etc) could reduce your risk of dementia and is relatively easy to follow. It is hard to know exactly which factors contribute to this protective effect, but evidence shows that the diet as a whole is beneficial.

Avoid smoking

We all know smoking is extremely harmful, yet 10 million people in Great Britain still light up regularly.  Smoking reduces the amount of blood that reaches your brain and also damages your blood vessels, increasing your risk of developing dementia.  Yet another reason to kick the habit!

Drink in moderation

Binge drinking is clearly never a good idea, but some research suggests a small amount of red wine could be good for you. The idea is that it could protect your brain against dementia, because of the antioxidants it contains, but it is still unclear as to whether all kinds of alcohol have the same benefits. Drinking excessive amounts of alcohol over a long period of time increases your risk of developing many health problems, and in extreme cases, can lead to a rare form of dementia called Korsakoff’s syndrome.

Get your blood pressure and cholesterol levels checked regularly

High blood pressure and cholesterol levels reduce the amount of blood that travels to your brain, and in the long term can increase the risk of developing dementia. Getting your GP to regularly check your blood pressure and cholesterol levels, especially if you are over the age of 40, is a good idea.

Maintain a healthy body weight

Studies have shown that people who are obese from midlife onwards are more likely to develop dementia in later life. This may be linked to factors associated with obesity, such as high blood pressure or Type 2 diabetes (which double the risk of dementia) but there is also evidence that excess weight is a risk factor itself.

Dementia Awareness Week 2014 runs from 18-24 May. If you have any concerns about dementia, you can call Alzheimer’s Society’s National Dementia Helpline for confidential advice, information and support on 0300 222 11 22. You can also email enquiries to [email protected]

How to spot symptoms in a loved one

Memory problems are common and many of us find we become more forgetful as we get older. While often it is nothing to be concerned about, in some cases, memory loss can be an early sign of dementia.

You should encourage a loved one to seek medical advice when their memory loss is affecting their everyday life and in particular if they display any of these symptoms:

– They struggle to recall recent events, but can easily recall things that have happened in the past.

– They find it hard to follow conversations of programmes on TV.

– They forget the names of friends or everyday objects.

– They cannot recall things they have heard, seen or read.

– They lose the thread of what they are saying.

– They have problems thinking or reasoning.

– They feel anxious, depressed or angry.

– They feel confused even in a familiar environment or get lost on familiar journeys.

– They find that other people appear to comment their memory loss.

Sometimes it can be hard to talk to somebody about their memory problems or encourage them to seek help, as they may feel scared and embarrassed. But seeing their GP can help by giving a reason for the changes, and if a diagnosis is given, it can provide access to information and support.

During Dementia Awareness Week 2014, Alzheimer’s Society wants people to stop sweeping dementia under the carpet. They are encouraging people to make that first step and contact their National Dementia Helpline on 0300 222 1122 if they have an immediate concern about themselves, a family member or friend but are yet to seek medical help. The service is open seven days a week, with trained advisers who understand the needs of people affected by dementia. You can also email enquiries to [email protected]

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