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6 Ways to Reduce the Risk of Dementia

- Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Here are six easy steps you can take that may reduce your risk of developing Alzheimer’s or at least help you live a healthier life.

1. Live a Heart-Healthy Lifestyle
A heart-healthy lifestyle lowers your risk of developing memory loss, particularly vascular dementia. Research suggests that vascular dementia is largely caused by high blood pressure and heart disease. Here are the core requirements of a lifestyle lived with heart-health in mind:

  • Exercise regularly
  • Eat a healthy diet
  • Don’t smoke

Take a walk at lunch. Take the stairs instead of the elevator whenever possible. Or park further than you need from the entrance to the supermarket.

2. Make Use of Your Brain
Research has shown that higher education levels are linked to decreased risk of cognitive decline. Researchers theorize that well educated people have better connected synapses in their brain. These “cognitive reserves” are thought to help compensate for the havoc wreaked within the brain by Alzheimer’s disease and other dementia.

3. Take Care of Your Head
The Alzheimer’s Association says, “There appears to be a strong link between future risk of Alzheimer’s and serious head trauma, especially when injury involves loss of consciousness.” Falls are also a major cause of head injuries.

4. Alcohol Use in Moderation
Many people fail to recognize that when alcohol is overused it can be just as dangerous as hard drugs. There are a host of dangers associated with drinking too much, but another major risk is dementia. Alcohol abuse is the second leading cause of adult dementia in Western countries, accounting for 10% of cases.

5. Reduce Stress and Stay Social
An active social life is linked to longevity, happiness,and good health, but it also associated with a lower risk of developing dementia. The Alzheimer’s Association says that “experts are not certain about the reason for [the] association of an active social life with decreased dementia risk. It may be due to direct mechanisms through which social and mental stimulation protect the brain.”

6. Get Sleep
What happens to people who don’t get enough sleep? In the short term, sleep deprivation can change your mood, decrease your reaction time, and make you more prone to simple mistakes. But even modest disruptions to the sleep cycle could be linked to Alzheimer’s. A September 2012 study found strong evidence indicating that the sleep-wake cycle helps to clear the brain of the amyloid plaques that are thought to cause Alzheimer’s, and another study found that healthy adults who report trouble sleeping have an increased risk of developing Alzheimer’s in the future.