publish date 2022-07-21 08:24:55
Mayo Clinic FAQ: 4 ways to reduce your risk of dementia
Dear Sirs at Mayo Clinic: I am in my mid forties and have two young children. My mother developed memory problems in her early sixties, which gradually worsened. Her sisters also suffered from related problems. How can I reduce my risk of dementia — and for my children? Are there specific foods, supplements, or activities that we should include in our lives to reduce the chances of memory loss?
Answer: Dementia is a symptom that affects a person’s memory, thinking, and social abilities to such an extent that it becomes difficult for them to perform normal daily activities. Dementia is caused by diseases of the brain. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common and well-known among the public. Diseases affecting the blood vessels — the same diseases that cause heart attacks and strokes — are the second most common cause of dementia.
Having a family history of dementia increases your risk of developing this condition. However, many people with a family history never develop symptoms. Even those without a family history may also experience memory problems as they age.
Consider these four tips to reduce your overall risk of memory challenges.
1. Participate in activities that stimulate the brain.
Think puzzles and computer games. But make it a lifelong habit, as research indicates that the value of stimulating cognitive activities accumulates over a lifetime. Which means getting a good education; working in a mentally stimulating job; Participation in pastimes, hobbies and social activities that require mental focus are all important to lowering the risk of developing dementia.
2. Focus on education and learning new skills.
Studies have shown that the more years a person has of education, the lower the risk of developing dementia. This appears to be because people who spend more time learning tend to develop stronger networks of neurons and stronger connections between those neurons within their brains. These networks are better equipped to deal with the cell damage that can occur from brain disorders that can lead to dementia.
3. Follow a healthy lifestyle.
As with other health issues, a healthy lifestyle is equally important to maintaining a healthy brain. Eating well, maintaining a healthy weight, participating in regular exercise and avoiding conditions that increase the risk of heart attacks and strokes can reduce the risk of dementia. It’s also been shown that taking the time to effectively manage cholesterol and blood pressure, not smoke, and reduce alcohol consumption improve cognitive health later in life. This is because these actions affect the health of the blood vessels in the brain, neck, and heart. It is also important to get a good night’s sleep and treat sleep disorders, such as: sleep apnea. Sleep aids shouldn’t be necessary if you’re eating a well-balanced diet.
4. Maintain social interactions.
Research shows that social interaction at any age will have positive cognitive benefits. Regular interactions with others, including family, friends, neighbors, co-workers and community members, can improve your mood and improve your outlook on life and use of your brain. These regular interactions positively affect your cognitive abilities and have been shown to relieve dementia symptoms.
As for your children in particular, start good habits early. The sooner you get them into healthy habits, the more likely they are to stick with them. This will benefit them in later years. Make sure they also lead a healthy lifestyle as much as possible. If the blood vessels in the brain and heart remain in good shape throughout adulthood and middle age, your children are more likely to remain healthy as they age.
If, in younger people, the health of these blood vessels deteriorates, it is difficult to repair the damage later. Damage to the blood vessels in the brain can be a factor in dementia.
This doesn’t mean that incorporating healthy choices into your lifestyle if you’re older won’t make a difference. These choices can still positively impact your cognitive and physical health.
If you were concerned that you might have memory problems before you were born, despite your lifestyle changes, contact your primary care provider or a neurologist for additional guidance.
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