Do you or someone you love have experience living with dementia? Although scientists aren't yet certain about how to prevent dementia, recent studies present evidence that some activities could have a positive impact on this disease.
Read on to learn more about five activities that may help delay the initial symptoms and slow the progression of dementia and other neurodegenerative diseases.
1. Regular Exercise
In addition to benefiting aging bodies, regular exercise has been shown to support the brain by keeping the blood flowing and slowing some of the reduced brain connections that occur as we age.
Scientists say that exercise may help prevent memory loss and improve cognitive function, which suggests that physical activity could even help prevent or postpone the onset of diseases such as dementia and Alzheimer's.
2. Healthy Eating
Do you eat a well-balanced, healthy diet high in fruit, vegetables and lean protein?
A 2020 study on dementia prevention notes several key risk factors for dementia, including high blood pressure, obesity and diabetes. However, healthy eating habits, such as reducing the intake of high-sugar, high-fat and highly processed foods can help manage all of these risk factors.
Choosing a diet that's high in fruits, vegetables and lean protein could help prevent dementia and other neurodegenerative conditions.
3. Hobbies That Challenge the Mind
If you're serious about combating dementia, break out that board game! Mental games and challenges could help delay the onset of dementia, Alzheimer's and other age-related neurodegenerative diseases.
In a recent longitudinal study carried out over seven years, adults with high levels of cognitive activity had a later onset of dementia. In fact, researchers concluded that "a cognitively active lifestyle in old age may delay the onset of dementia ... by at least 5 years."
Hobbies that can challenge the mind and promote a cognitively active lifestyle include:
Reading books, magazines and newspapers.
Playing games such as checkers, board games or Scrabble.
Playing card games.
Try one or more of these activities to find the ones you enjoy the most, and then start including them in your daily routine.
4. Work on Improving Sleep Quality
As Harvard Medical School reports, getting a good night's sleep improves your memory function and may contribute to preventing or delaying the onset of diseases such as dementia. In addition, studies conducted by researchers in Toronto and Chicago have determined that better sleep reduces the likelihood of developing Alzheimer's disease.
It's generally accepted that adults need between seven and eight hours of sleep nightly, but as scientists recently discovered, the harmful effects of inadequate sleep can start appearing as early as age 50.
If you're wondering how to improve your sleep quality as you age, try to avoid creating a dependence on sleeping pills by choosing natural methods of improving sleep quality in your 50s and 60s.
At all stages of life, work on increasing your physical activity, limiting your alcohol consumption and eating better to get a good night's sleep. If you suffer from interrupted sleep due to a medical condition, talk to your doctor about addressing sleep apnea issues with medication or a sleep apnea machine. Also, avoid drinking too much of anything two hours before bedtime to limit your washroom trips during the night.
5. Maintain Social Connections
Maintaining a healthy social network and connecting with others are critical steps to preventing dementia, according to a University of Michigan report. Look for opportunities to keep in touch with family and friends in person and even by phone or online. You could also find ways to connect with new friends through physical activities or hobbies to help exercise your brain, such as a weekly bridge club.
Much research on preventing dementia is still in progress, but incorporating these five activities into your life now can help you improve your physical and mental health and may slow down the onset and development of age-related neurodegenerative diseases.