It’s Dementia Awareness week and so there have been a number of press articles and radio interviews advising people more about Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia.
But how dementia savvy are you?
Are you wondering about what you can do to help protect your brain from future cognitive decline?
If you have a family member affected by dementia, does that mean you might also get it?
Let’s do a reality check.
- There are 280,000 Australians currently living with dementia.
- That number is expected to double over the next 15 years by 2030.
- The biggest risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease (the commonest form of dementia) is age.
- We have a rapidly ageing population who are at risk.
- Alzheimer’s disease remains poorly understood in terms of actual cause – but we do know it’s multifactorial.
- There is no effective treatment for Alzheimer’s disease.
- A person will typically live for around ten years following diagnosis with progressive memory and brain function loss.
It’s not exactly happy reading.
BUT ( and it’s appropriate here to use a very big but) it has been recognised that over 50% of ALL people diagnosed with Alzheimer’s have at least one potentially modifiable risk factor.
So yes, whilst it is true having a family member with dementia does increase your own relative risk there is much that you can do to minimise your own risk.
And the good news is it’s as simple as becoming brain fit.
In the same way that if you send your car in for regular servicing, check the oil and the tyre pressure, your car will probably run smoother for longer. Attending to your own brain maintenance will provide the same benefit.
So, how about starting from today (why would you even consider starting tomorrow ??). In no particular order:
- Get your blood pressure checked.
- Include fresh and nutritious foods at every meal – yes that does include that green stuff called vegetables.
- Get moving – find that thirty minutes (and NO excuses).
- Use your brain. It’s the unused tools that go rusty the fastest.
- Manage stress. By whatever means it takes and breathe.
- Get enough sleep. Sleep deprivation leads to cognitive decline!
- Communicate with another human being. We are social creatures and seeing friends keeps our brains working better.
- Lighten up and have a good laugh. Children laugh around x 300 times a day. You can have some fun too.
- Don’t smoke. It’s not just lung cancer you want to avoid, it’s dementia too.
- Keep your weight in the healthy range. And you didn’t know that obesity is linked to cognitive decline?
- If you have diabetes type 2, keep your blood sugars tightly controlled. Diabetes affects many organs including the brain.
Are any of the above impossible to do? Only if you make them so.
It may require a decision on your part, and it will certainly require some action on an ongoing basis.
However, research has consistently shown that those people who choose to adhere most closely to brain fitness principles are able to modify their own risk of dementia.
Alzheimer’s disease starts at least 15 years before your any clinical symptoms show up. Studies have indicated that a person who may be developing Alzheimer’s can defer or delay the onset of symptoms by up to five years simply by adhering to a brain fit lifestyle.
It’s your choice.
But surely it’s a no-brainer!
If you would like to find out more about how you can become more brain fit, then please contact me, or buy a copy of the book “Brain Fit” on my website.