Dementia is an umbrella term which is used to describe a number of brain conditions that affect cognitive ability. There are around 850,000 people living with dementia in the UK, and this is expected to rise to 1 million by 2025. As the population ages, this is expected to rise to 2 million by 2051.
Dementia is now the leading cause of death in the UK, and for those living with dementia and their loved ones, it can be very distressing.
While dementia is a growing issue, there are some steps we can take to try to protect against the disease, which we will explore here.
Sleep and Dementia
Various studies have found a link between a long term lack of sleep and an increased risk of Alzheimer's disease. In fact a recent study has shown that one night of sleep deprivation can increase the levels of a protein that puts you at risk.
It is therefore advisable to try and maintain a regular sleep schedule. Try and go to bed and get up at the same time each day, even the weekends, so keep a regular sleep pattern. Avoid eating or exercising within 2 hours of going to bed, and ensure that sleep disorders are well treated.
Best Food to Eat to Avoid Dementia
There is a range of evidence to show that your diet can very much help to protect your brain against cognitive decline. Diets such as the MIND diet, and also the Mediterranean diet are suggested as being useful to ensure good brain health.
Eating food rich in omega-3 fatty acids such as oily fish, combined with healthy greens, lentils, pulses and whole grains can help you to protect against dementia.
Stress and Dementia
Being exposed to prolonged periods of stress can be linked to an increased risk of dementia. When we are stressed for a long time, the body releases cortisol which can damage the immune system which is known to play a part in developing dementia. Stress is also linked to depression, a second risk factor in developing the disease.
Making changes to lifestyle to avoid stress can be very beneficial for your brain. Things, like taking more exercise if you are able, practising mindfulness, plus making practical changes to avoid stressful situations, can be helpful.
Exercise to Avoid Dementia
According to the Alzheimer’s Research & Prevention Foundation, regular physical exercise can reduce your risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease by up to 50%.
Ideally one should aim for 30 minutes of moderate intensity exercise 5 times per week, doing a mixture of cardio and weight training. However, if you are new to exercise, things, like wearing a fitness tracker and just heading outdoors a few times per day, can be very beneficial.
Keep Your Brain Active to Avoid Dementia
Of course, one of the best ways to ensure that brain function does not dimish is by keeping it regularly 'exercised'. This can take the form of constant learning, whether through books, online or by taking a class. A higher level of education is linked with better mental functioning in old age, so it's very much worth ensuring that you keep mentally active.