Home Health Expert reveals the five things you should do now to slash your...

Expert reveals the five things you should do now to slash your dementia risk


Dementia is a syndrome, or a group of symptoms, related to the ongoing decline of the brain. Some of the most commonly known symptoms include memory loss, confusion and behavioural changes.

But it can also lead to mobility issues, depression and even hallucinations. Due to the nature of the condition these symptoms will progressively worsen over time.

It is most prevalent in people over the age of 65, and for this reason it is sometimes seen as a condition that is almost unavoidable as we get older. But scientists say around 40 percent of cases are thought to be preventable through certain lifestyle changes.

One expert has shared five such lifestyle changes we could all make to significantly slash our chances of developing dementia. Speaking on the latest ZOE Science and Nutrition podcast, Professor Claire Steves revealed practical strategies for dementia prevention.

Prof Steves, who is a consultant physician in geriatric medicine at Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust and a senior clinical lecturer at King’s College London, recommended making the following alterations as soon as possible.

These five changes include diet, physical activity, looking after your teeth, staying social and controlling your blood sugar levels.

Diet

What we eat plays a huge role in our overall health and well-being, and can even affect our brains.

“It’s about getting as many different-coloured fruits and vegetables into your diet as possible and making sure you’re getting good, plant-based fats,” Prof Steves said.

Plant-based fats include nuts, seeds, and olive oil.

She continued: “Because the brain is hugely metabolically active, it needs a lot of nutrients. We know that a wide variety of plant-based nutrients is really important for brain health.”

Prof Steves explained that compounds called flavonoids from colourful plants are vital for brain development because they feed your gut bacteria.

The gut and brain are tightly linked through what’s called the gut-brain axis.

Physical activity

If you’re not currently very active, Prof Steves urges you to start moving more.

She said: “Get out and walk for 45 minutes at least three times a week. It will really make a difference.”

According to the Alzheimer’s Society, regular exercise can reduce the risk of developing dementia by about 28 percent.

Look after your teeth

Prof Steves warned that there’s a close relationship between oral health and brain health.

One study, published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, found that the bacteria that cause gum disease are also associated with the development of Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias, especially vascular dementia.

Stay social and keep your brain busy

Although brain training games and puzzles might help, you might only get better at those particular games. To build up cognitive reserve, you need variety, Prof Steves said.

One of the most complicated things we do with our brain is interact socially – it’s much more taxing than a crossword puzzle.

Some physical activity can be mentally taxing too, like cycling or dancing. Choosing something that exercises your mind and body at the same time could be very beneficial.

Keep blood sugar levels under control

As well as eating well and getting more physical activity, maintaining good blood sugar levels is vital.

Prof Steves explained that there’s a relationship between blood vessel health and brain health.

“A diet that’s good for your heart and blood vessels is also good for your brain,” she added.

The Alzheimer’s Association states that high blood sugar or insulin can “harm” the brain in several ways.

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