A growing number of new studies suggests that dementia is not a normal aspect of aging, despite what many Americans usually believe. Research suggests that any person can use measures to reduce the risks of developing the symptoms later on. If one has hereditary predisposition for dementia, they may be able to reduce future cognitive decline or delay its onset for a few years.
There are a few things people can do to assist in the process like exercise, staying active, getting enough sleep, and cultivating relationships. Those things may help maintain neuroplasticity which could delay cognitive decline in the future.
Move Around More
One of the major ways people can improve their odds of developing dementia or delaying its onset is through exercise and good diet. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), “Studies show that people can reduce their risk of cognitive decline and dementia by being physically active, not smoking, avoiding harmful use of alcohol, controlling their weight, eating a healthy diet, and maintaining healthy blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar levels.”
That means people can improve their chances against the various forms of dementia by taking a few simple steps: walk more, drink less, eat healthier, and more. Though there are hereditary contributors to a dementia diagnosis, exercise and diet are also contributing factors so don’t neglect them.
In addition to exercise and diet, it’s also important to keep your brain active. Learning new things is especially effective. Read a book, start a hobby, listen to an online lecture or podcast — all of those things will help keep the brain healthy. New information forms new neural pathways, making our brains sharper and more flexible and resilient.
According to the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), certain activities may help lower the risks associated with dementia. HHS wrote, “Lots of activities can help keep your mind active, including reading, playing board games, crafting or taking up a new hobby, learning a new skill…” These activities can help keep your mind active and may stave off dementia for a time.
In addition to an active mind, good sleep may also help with lowering risks for developing dementia. Writing for NPR.org, Jon Hamilton said, “During deep sleep, the brain appears to wash away waste products that increase the risk for Alzheimer’s disease. A host of new research studies suggest that this stage of sleep — when dreams are rare and the brain follows a slow, steady beat – can help reduce levels of beta-amyloid and tau, two hallmarks of the disease.”
Later on in the article, Matthew Walker, a professor of neuroscience and psychology at the University of California, Berkeley concluded, “There is something about this deep sleep that is helping protect you.” Turns out, sleep may be pretty important to lowering the risk for developing dementia in the future.
Cultivate Your Interpersonal Relationships
The lockdowns showed us that social engagement is critical for our mental wellbeing. And a close social circle is good for our brains as well, as we feel more protected and nurtured in one. Staying connected to our communities, friends, and family helps prevent depression and mental health issues, which in turn can harm cognitive health of your brain.
In the same article HHS wrote, “Stay connected with family and friends. Connecting with people and engaging in social activities can prevent social isolation and loneliness, which are linked to higher risks for cognitive decline and Alzheimer’s disease.”
In conclusion, all the studies seem to show the same results: dementia may be either preventable or delayed by doing a few key things. Take walks, connect with friends, learn new things and eat well. Regardless of whether these activities ultimately prevent dementia, they should improve the quality of your life in the long run.