How can I reduce my risk of developing dementia?
The brain is the most powerful and most complex object ever made. Looking after it promotes brain health and may lessen our chances of developing dementia.
Although we can’t prevent all types of dementia, we may be able to decrease the risk of dementia. There is growing evidence that leading a healthy active lifestyle may help maintain your brain health. These simple everyday steps can also help those with dementia to live well with the condition.
Challenge your brain
Keep your brain active in a way you enjoy. Do a crossword or puzzle. Remember your shopping list instead of writing it down. Be curious and take an interest in people. Learn something new or take up a new hobby.
Keep yourself moving – but don’t push it too hard, you don’t need to run a marathon. Aim for half an hour of exercise five days a week and your brain will thank you for it.
How healthy is your diet? A balanced diet that is rich in vegetables, fruit, whole grains, dairy, lean meats, poultry and fish is a good starting point. Keep an eye on how much alcohol you drink, and stay well within thelow-risk guidelines. Drinking more than just a couple of units a day is a serious risk factor.
Know your numbers
Get your blood pressure and cholesterol levels checked every six months or so. A healthy blood pressure level is good for your heart and your brain.
It’s not easy but it can be done and it really will lower your risk. The HSE’s QUIT Team can double your chances of quitting, give them a ring on 1800 201 203 or text them for free on 50100.
Have some fun
Connecting with people helps to grow new connections in your brain and socialising is good for your well-being too. Meet friends and family for a cuppa or other activities that you enjoy doing together. You could join a club, visit your local museum or get involved in volunteering in your community.
Other risk factors for dementia
Age-related hearing loss
Hearing loss is now considered to be an important risk factor for the development of dementia. However, we do not know yet whether interventions, such as hearing aids, can reduce a person’s risk. Hearing aids may be of benefit but further studies are needed.
Intellectual disability and dementia
People with Down’s syndrome are at an increased risk of dementia. It is estimated that one in three people with Down’s syndrome in their 50s and close to two in three people with Down’s syndrome aged over 60 will develop dementia. However, although most people with Down’s syndrome will experience brain changes as they age, not everyone will develop dementia.
Diabetes and dementia
Research has shown that diabetes can increase the risk of developing both Alzheimer's disease and vascular dementia. This is thought to be due to mechanisms behind diabetes development that can damage small blood vessels in the brain, which is likely to contribute towards vascular dementia. It is also thought that diabetes-related blood vessel damage could lead to a reduced blood flow to the brain, which may be a factor in Alzheimer's disease development. Living a healthy lifestyle that promotes cardiovascular health will help to both managing diabetes and benefit your brain.