5 steps to dementia prevention

There are lots of things that we believe are necessary elements of ageing; loss of interest in clothing fashion, physical decline, and loss of mental function. To some extent all of these do happen and in the case of disinterest in clothing fashion that is not wholly a bad thing. However, loss of function on a physical and mental level is not a definite result of ageing. These things result from lifestyle and admittedly, common lifestyle choices in the modern world do lend themselves to deterioration over time. As far as your mind goes though, there are five lifestyle choices that have been shown to preserve function as you age.

Dementia is a collection of symptoms that are caused by disorders affecting the brain. It is not one specific disease. Dementia affects thinking, behaviour and the ability to perform everyday tasks. Most people with dementia are older, but it is important to remember that not all older people get dementia. It is not a normal part of ageing, yet it is incredibly common.

Worldwide, there are more than 36 million people with dementia today and 115 million predicted by 2050. The total estimated worldwide costs of dementia were US$604 billion in 2010 and if dementia were a country, it would be the world’s 18th largest economy. In Australia there are over 321,600 people living with dementia. This number is expected to increase by one third to 400,000 in less than ten years and without a medical breakthrough, the number of people with dementia is expected to be almost 900,000 by 2050. In addition to people with the condition there are an estimated 1.2 million Australians are caring for someone with dementia.

Given that dementia is huge social issue but not a necessary part of ageing, finding lifestyle measures to prevent it is immensely valuable. That is why a new study from Cardiff University’s School of Medicine is so interesting.

For the study the researchers assessed data on more than 2,200 men over the course of 25 years from 1979 to 2004. The data included disease incidence as well as lifestyle choices. Analysis revealed five lifestyle behaviours that reduced risk of dementia.

The dementia reducing behaviours were; regular exercise, not smoking, maintaining a low bodyweight, healthy diet, and a low alcohol intake. People who engaged in at least four of these activities had a 60 per cent lower risk of dementia than people who engaged in none of them. They also had a 70 per cent lower risk of diabetes, heart disease, and stroke.

None of these behaviours are revolutionary or rocket science but it shows that what benefits your heart also benefits your mind. The study is also a nice reminder that your lifestyle choices determine how your body and mind will age. It may be a little scary but it is also empowering.

Terry Robson

Terry Robson

Terry Robson is the Editor-in-Chief of WellBeing and the Editor of EatWell.

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