Dementia: Dr Sara on benefits of being in nature
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Nonetheless, there are several ways to lower your risk of dementia and research is ongoing. Some dementia risk factors are impossible to change, such as age and genetics, however research suggests other risk factors may also be important, and may be possible to change. Indeed, the NHS says that there is good evidence that a healthy lifestyle can help reduce your risk of developing dementia.
Dementia is a common condition and it is perhaps unsurprising that with an ageing population cases are expected to rise.
Indeed, by 2025, Dementia UK reports more than one million people will be living with dementia in the UK.
Moreover, current statistics from the NHS show one in 14 people over the age of 65 have dementia.
Although there are some risk factors you can’t change, there are many that you can. This will not mean that you definitely do not develop the condition, but can make it less likely.
The “MIND” diet, short for Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay, can also bolster the brain against decline, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Indeed the National Institute of Aging says: “Many studies suggest that what we eat affects the aging brain’s ability to think and remember.”
It notes that the MIND diet focuses on plant-based foods linked to dementia prevention and encourages leafy green vegetables, “at least six servings/week”.
It says: “One study, based on older adults’ reports of their eating habits, found that eating a daily serving of leafy green vegetables such as spinach and kale was associated with slower age-related cognitive decline, perhaps due to the neuroprotective effects of certain nutrients.”
It adds: “Not all studies have shown a link between eating well and a boost in cognition.
“Overall, the evidence suggests, but does not prove, that following a Mediterranean or similar diet might help reduce the risk for Alzheimer’s dementia or slow cognitive decline.”
The Alzheimer’s Society (AS) says that although getting older is the biggest risk factor for dementia, evidence shows there are things you can do to help reduce your own risk.
There are five more common types of dementia and these are Alzheimer’s disease, vascular dementia, dementia with Lewy bodies, frontotemporal dementia and mixed dementia.
The AS notes that mid-life – from your 40s into your early 60s – is a good time to start taking steps to reduce your risk of developing dementia, though it is helpful to take steps at any age.
“The brain changes that cause dementia can start years or even decades before symptoms develop. If you live a healthy lifestyle now, you are reducing the chances that these brain changes will happen,” the AS adds.
It also notes that “keeping your mind active” is likely to reduce your risk of dementia.
“Regularly challenging yourself mentally seems to build up the brain’s ability to cope with disease. One way to think about it is ‘Use it or lose it’,” the charity explains.
The NHS suggests that risk factors such as hearing loss, untreated depression, loneliness or social isolation, or sitting for most of the day, may also be important.
“The research concluded that by modifying the risk factors we are able to change, our risk of dementia could be reduced by around a third,” the health body says.
It adds that experts agree that what is good for your heart is also good for your brain, meaning that you can help reduce your risk of dementia by keeping your blood pressure at a healthy level.
“Being overweight or obese can increase your blood pressure and the risk of type 2 diabetes, both of which are linked to a higher risk of Alzheimer’s disease and vascular dementia.”
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