Five must follow lifestyle rules to reduce dementia risk

Liji Varghese

New Delhi:  With about 44 million people living with dementia, and figures expected to go up to 135 million by 2050, health experts worldwide are urging people to focus on healthy lifestyle changes to prevent the cognitive decline.

Dementia is not a specific disease, but a set of signs and symptoms of chronic nature resulting in reduced cognitive function in older people affecting memory and social abilities severely enough to interfere with their daily activities.

Health experts have expressed concern over the high level of anti-psychotic drug prescription by medical practitioners worldwide, the benefits of which are often grossly exaggerated and the need for adopting a healthy lifestyle.

According to a recent study, regular exercise, not smoking, a healthy diet, having a low alcohol intake and maintaining a low body weight slashes the risk of dementia and cognitive decline by at least 60 percent.

Since there is no cure to dementia, the only way to reduce the risk is by incorporating healthy lifestyle changes into your daily routine.

Here are the five lifestyle changes that can help prevent onset and progress of dementia: 

  1. Eat healthy: A healthy, low-fat, low-cholesterol diet can help keep your brain healthy. Including fresh fruits and vegetables, nuts, fish, olive oil and reducing meat intake can help reduce dementia risk.
    In a recent study, scientists have found that the Mediterranean diet could boost cognitive function, reduce the risk of Alzheimer's disease, cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes and even cancer. Reduce consumption of trans fats and saturated fats. Avoid full-fat dairy products, red meat, fast food, fried foods, and packaged and processed foods.
    The health experts claimed that poor diet caused more diseases than physical inactivity along with smoking and alcohol combined and having a Mediterranean diet could possibly help prevent the age-related mental decline.
  2. Exercise: Regular exercise keeps the heart healthy, which in general improves oxygen and blood flow to all organs, including the brain. Exercise also helps slow further deterioration in those who have already started to develop cognitive problems.
    Physical activity like cycling, walking, swimming etc helps maintain a healthy body weight, lowers bad cholesterol and keeps blood pressure in check. 30 minutes of aerobic exercise at least five times a week can help prevent mental decline in old age.
  3. Avoid alcohol, quit smoking: Excessive drinking and smoking can cause blood pressure to rise drastically. High blood pressure may lead to a higher risk of some types of dementia. Stick to the recommended limits for alcohol consumption and keep away from smoking to reduce the risk.
  4. Keep your mind active: The less you use it the faster you lose it, and so holds true for the brain. Indulging in mentally stimulating activities like reading, playing cards and board games can help postpone the onset and slow the progression of dementia.
    Studies also show that socialising and being more connected to the world outside helps keep the brain active. Go out, socialise more. Such activities challenge the brain to learn new names, details and connections between people and events.
  5. Improve your sleep pattern:  Sleep is a necessary part of the body`s self-healing process. Irregular sleep pattern not only leaves one feeling tired and cranky, it also reduces the brains ability to think, process and recall information.  Though sleep patterns change with age, most adults require at least 8 hours of sleep everyday in order to keep the brain functioning effectively.