There’s no doubt that the rise in dementia is linked to living longer. What causes dementia is still a mystery, but there are steps you can take to reduce your risk of developing it, even while you enjoy a longer life span.
Those steps are all about taking care of yourself.
Get regular exercise
Exercise doesn’t just help keep your muscles and joints from seizing up, you’ll also improve your circulation and blood pressure, which have a direct effect on your brain.
You don’t have to run marathons or get into body-building – doing a little every day is more important. If you haven’t done much in a while, start slowly to build up your fitness.
A great diet helps everything, so cut out high-fat, high-salt or sugar, processed foods.
Vegetables, fruit, and starchy foods like whole-meal bread, potatoes, kumera and brown rice should make up the bulk of your diet. Include lots of healthy proteins like oily fish, beans, pulses, nuts and seeds, and eggs, meat and dairy products in smaller quantities.
Smoking doesn’t just increase your risk of lung cancer. It’s been linked to a whole range of life-threatening conditions, one of them dementia. Smoking affects your circulation, damaging it in ways that also damage your brain.
If you need help to quit there are alternative products your chemist can suggest, and support organisations like Quitline.
Cut down your drinking
Too much alcohol damages your brain, and can lead to dementia. If you’re drinking more than 14 beers or glasses of wine a week, you might think about cutting back.
There are ways to trick yourself into it – low alcohol wines and beers, kombucha or ginger beer in brown bottles that look like beer, non-alcohol grape drinks. You could also try alternating drinks with glasses of water.
Keep your brain working
‘Use it or lose it’ is the mantra: learn a new skill, do puzzles, read interesting books, study for a qualification. Get out and socialise, join a community group, and keep in close, regular contact with your family. Other people, more than anything else, can keep your brain healthy and active – especially little kids!
Get a check-up
We all get older, and it’s so easy to ignore small niggles until they become larger problems. Many conditions are more easily treated if they’re caught early, so go to your doctor for a WOF. Even if you’re pronounced healthy, that’s got to be reassuring. A clean bill of health will make a difference to your dementia risk.
Enjoy a long, smart life
It’s never too late to start living a healthful life. Eat good food, cut down on alcohol and stop smoking, for a start. Get out and walk, socialise and stay in touch with your family. Those aren’t just ways to reduce your risk of dementia, they’re also the path to a long, smart, active life, full of enjoyment.