New research shows making simple lifestyle changes can significantly decrease our risk of dementia. We talk to the experts to find out how to keep a sharp mind.
A brisk 30 minute walk or 20 minute cycle a few times a week could lower dementia risk. The body secretes protective chemicals during physical activity including a protein called brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), thought to spark the growth of neurons.
Other ways include ballroom dancing, joining a choir and learning to play an instrument.
Check your blood pressure
High blood pressure can increase your chances of Alzheimers, so have it checked regularly. If it’s high, try to eliminate or cut out what may be causing it – smoking, eating too much salt and processed food, not exercising enough and leading a high-stress lifestyle. If you can’t find an obvious reason, chat to your doctor about blood pressure-lowering medication.
Beef up your Bs
Brain shrinkage is a component of increased dementia risk, and recent Alzheimers research has shown that some people with memory problems who took vitamin B12 supplements slowed the rate at which their brain was shrinking.
Unless your doctor has tested your homocysteine levels and suggested a supplement, you can get your daily intake from food such as beef, shellfish, eggs and soya milk.
Be savvy about fats
New research published in the medical journal Neurology has found that people with a diet rich in healthy fat – omega 3’s in particular from oily fish like salmon, mackerel or fresh tuna – score higher in brain tests and show less grey matter shrinkage typical of Alzheimer’s disease.
Avoid foods with the word ‘hydrogenated’ in its ingredients, as this means it contains trans-fats. If you don’t like fish, try an omega 3 supplement.
Homocysteine is an amino acid found in blood and created in response to eating protein. High levels are associated with memory loss, decreased cognitive function and a higher level of Alzheimers disease.
If you are having memory problems, ask your doctor to check your homocysteine levels with a blood test, and increase the amount of folate and B12 vitamins in your diet. These are found in green vegetables like kale, spinach, asparagus, Brussels sprouts and broccoli, and also in brown rice, peas and oranges.
DISCLAIMER: Before starting any diet, you should speak to your doctor. You must not rely on the information on this website/newsletter as an alternative to medical advice from your doctor or other professional healthcare provider.