With some simple lifestyle changes starting at an early age, we can significantly cut dementia cases as stated in an article in Consumer Reports which cites a major report published in the Lancet. The report states that getting more exercise and controlling high blood pressure are key life style changes in preventing more than 1/3 of dementia cases. Researchers say that steps can be taken over the course of one’s life to reduce their risk of dementia. Dr. David Knopman, M.D., a professor of neurology at the Mayo Clinic School of Medicine, and the chair of the Alzheimer’s Association Medical and Scientific Advisory Council, says that “ If you take care of your heart, it may take care of your brain, too.” 14% of Americans over the age of 71 have been affected by memory loss and cognitive decline from Alzheimer’s Disease, which is the most common form of demential.
The Lancet report identifies 9 risk factors that are potentially changeable over the course of one’s life for dementia. It all starts at an early age.
Education: Anyone who stops their formal education prior to high school is at an heightened risk for dementia. The more education we reinforce our brains with, the larger the “cognitive reserve” our brains will have. This will make us less susceptible to cognitive decline because our brains can still function at a more advanced level even when it’s not running at 100%.
High Blood Pressure: Hypertension is closely linked to dementia because of the problems it causes with the blood vessels in our brain. Managing blood pressure in mid-life may help prevent dementia according to a report in the National Academics of Science, Engineering and Medicine which coincides with the National Institute on Aging. Healthy lifestyle choices and exercise decrease our chances for High Blood Pressure.
Hearing Loss: There are a couple theories on why hearing loss might be linked to cognitive decline. The first is that it can lead to social disconnection and withdrawal, brain atrophy, or depression; all of which may stimulate cognitive decline. The other theory is that cognitive resources that are needed to encode and preserve memories may be reduced when people are struggling to hear.
Obesity: When people develop insulin resistance, they may have elevated levels of inflammation all through their bodies. This may cause problems with impaired cognition because of insulin resisting hormone production in the brain. This points to Obesity as being a key factor in mid-life for dementia.
Smoking: Cigarette smoke contains substances that are harmful to the brain. There is a link between smoking and dementia because it may be related to the effects smoking has on cardiovascular health.
Depression: Scientists are still determining whether depression is a risk factor for dementia or if it is just an early symptom of it. As stated in the Lancet, depression later in life can make people more vulnerable to dementia because it increases your stress hormone levels. This in itself affects the growth and endurance of brain cells as well as shrink the hippocampus, the part of the brain which involves your memory.
Social isolation: Social isolation is linked to an increased risk of dementia. Specifically later in life, a lack of physical contact and loneliness are linked to high blood pressure, heart disease and depression. Not to mention, spending less time connecting with others can lead to cognitive decline. Seniors with a busy schedule score higher on memory tests as studies have shown.
Physical Inactivity: Researchers determined that exercise in older adults makes them more likely to maintain cognition than those who don’t. Research done on thousands of people suggest that physical activity may help prevent or delay cognitive decline with it’s protective effects. Resistance training, longer exercise sessions of at least 45 minutes at a time and tai-chi may all have distinct benefits for the brain.
Diabetes: Studies of thousands of people have shown that cognitive abilities deteriorate more severely and quicker in aging people with uncontrolled diabetes who also show signs of memory deficits, this according the the Alzheimer’s Association. Controlling diabetes can help slow the progression of early cognitive impairment which leads to full-blown dementia.
The key is to start early and maintain a healthy lifestyle through out life. Education, both early and ongoing, will help with our cognitive reserve later in life. In conclusion, watch your diet and your sugar intake, and avoid cigarettes. Stay physically active and socially interactive. Exercise and weight training can help you avoid or slow down the process of dementia, as well as give you a host of other benefits including fending off depression and cardio vascular disease.
(Friedman, Lauren. F (2017, July 20) “Lifestyle Changes Could Cut Dementia Cases, New Study Says” retrieved from https://www.consumerreports.org/dementia/lifestyle-changes-could-cut-dementia-cases-new-study-says/
Judy Hoch is the Business Manager at Body Elite. She has been a dedicated client of Body Elite since March 12, 2015. She studied Criminal Justice in college and has a background in customer service. She stays active in community service and volunteer work, runs a preschool, and is involved in her family contracting business. Judy has 6 children, and 4 grandchildren.