It is estimated that approximately 8.8% of American adults aged 65 and older have dementia, a number which represents approximately 3.65 million Americans. Even more concerning, experts expect that this number will continue to increase in the years to come!
While the biggest ‘cause’ of dementia is out of our hands (unless you have discovered the secret to stopping aging), there are many other choices and habits in our lives that may contribute to an increased or decreased risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
Today is the perfect day to draw a line in the sand and begin to make the healthier choices in your life. From the food that you eat to your activity levels, and even how often you enjoy a good laugh – all of these factors work together to impact your overall health and well-being. Regardless of how old or young you may be, start today and you will thank yourself for it in the long run.
Here are 9 tips to reduce your risk of dementia:
#1 – Quit Smoking
This may not apply to you, however, if you are currently a smoker you should be seriously considering the options available to help you quit. There are many reasons to stop smoking including the risk of cancer and heart disease, however, evidence shows that smoking can also increase your chances of dementia. This is just one item on a list of reasons for why you should put down the cigarette!
#2 – Take Control of Your Health
Do you visit your doctor for a regular physical exam? If you are of age, have you had a regular mid-life health check? There are many signs and symptoms that can tip off your doctor that you are at risk, allowing them to devise an appropriate plan of attack, however, they are only going to identify these risks if you get in to see them. Help them help you.
#3 – Reduce Stress
In a world where stress is so incredibly common many of us overlook the potential health implications of regular ongoing stress on the body. In fact, stress has been associated with a number of health concerns, both physical and mental, including an increase in cognitive decline. If you are living a high-stress or high-anxiety lifestyle, take steps today to lower your stress level and practice self-care, providing yourself with the necessary relaxation to decrease your chances of problems later in life.
#4 – Physical Activity
We all know that physical activity is an important component of living a healthy lifestyle, but did you know it can also lower your risk of developing dementia later in life? Experts say that you should include at least 30 minutes of physical activity five times each week. This doesn’t have to be anything super intense, just enough to raise your heart rate and cause you to feel slightly out of breath. This may include walking, riding your bike, swimming dancing or joining in on a local workout class.
#5 – Exercise Your Mind
While many people will take the time to pay attention to the workout that they are giving their body, many overlook the opportunity to work out their brain for better mental health. This may include reading, word search or crossword puzzles, brain teasers and puzzles among other tasks. By keeping your mind active and engaged on a regular basis you can optimize your overall brain health.
#6 – Limit Your Alcohol Intake
Experts recommend that you limit your alcohol consumption to a maximum of 14 units per week for both men and women. What constitutes a unit? A pint of beer is equal to 2-2.5 units, while a small glass of wine is approximately 1.5 units. Exceeding these limits regularly is considered a risk factor for dementia. This increased risk isn’t only present in those who are getting drunk on a regular basis. Even slightly exceeding the suggested limit can impact your risk.
#7 – Pay Attention to Your Weight
In a study published in the ‘Alzheimer’s & Dementia’ journal, researchers discovered that there is a connection between obesity and an increased risk of dementia later in life. This has been a controversial topic among the medical community as data has also been presented indicating that a low body weight can also contribute to the risk. Maintaining a healthy body weight (not under or overweight) is your best chance of optimizing your overall health and avoiding health-related risks like dementia later in life.
#8 – Laugh More
Not only is laughter ‘great for the soul,’ but researchers are now saying that it may also provide us with some great physical benefits. Allowing yourself to embrace laughter in your day to day life has been associated with lower stress, decreased anxiety, lower blood sugar levels, a decrease in heart disease and a boosted immune system. In other words, laughing can actually make you healthier! Many of these factors are also linked to your dementia risk, meaning that laughter can help lower your risk of dementia.
#9 – Proper Nutrition
Too often people overlook the impact of what we eat on our overall health. The food that you eat is the fuel you are providing your body, so you if are consistently putting junk into your system it is no wonder that you would, in turn, see a negative impact. In order to reduce your risk of dementia, eat a well-balanced diet, with careful attention on the inclusion of oily fish, olive oil, unrefined cereals, fruit, and vegetables, while reducing the amount of salt, sugar and saturated fats.
Featured image via the Huffington Post