Dementia: Five ‘simple’ lifestyle changes to reduce your risk – advice from an expert

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Dementia lead for Bupa Care Homes, Fran Vandelli, shared five “simple” ways you could minimise your risk. Speaking with, she said: “A healthy body is key to keeping a healthy mind, and simple lifestyle changes can help reduce our chances of developing dementia. Thankfully these don’t need to cost the earth – many are free, and some will even save you money.”

Quit smoking

It’s no secret that smoking is bad for your health, but it’s not just your lungs that are affected.

Smoking also increases plaque which builds up in your blood vessels, making it harder for blood to travel around the body. This can prevent blood from reaching your brain, raising your risk of developing dementia.

Quitting smoking is one of the best things you can do to reduce your risk of dementia.

Eat a balanced diet

Being overweight or obese means we’re more likely to develop type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure – both conditions are linked to a higher risk of Alzheimer’s and vascular dementia – the two most common forms of dementia.

Try to avoid processed or fatty foods – including sausages and burgers, ready meals, cakes and biscuits – as these can increase your cholesterol, which is detrimental to your blood vessels.

Watch out for salt too, it can impact on our blood pressure and heart health, which again can increase our risk of developing dementia. Instead, opt for high fibre foods – like wholegrain pasta, breads or rice – and aim for five portions of fruit and vegetables a day.

Keep moving

Along with eating well, exercising can help fend off dementia. Staying active and involved in hobbies helps maintain physical strength and dexterity. It can also help manage our weight and blood pressure.

You don’t need an expensive gym membership. Instead, it’s about finding activities that work for you – whether that’s going out for a jog or brisk walk, hopping on the bike, doing a home workout, or dancing to your favourite music.

Maintaining good core strength can also help prevent falls and fractures. Accidents like this can lead to long spells in hospital, increased dependency and feelings of depression and isolation.

Keep your brain ticking

When it comes to keeping a healthy mind, it’s very much “use it or lose it” – so keep your brain active to reduce your risk of developing dementia.

Some evidence suggests that formal education can lower the risk too. Even as an adult, learning a new language or starting a short course may make your brain more resilient, and reduce your risk of cognitive decline in later life.

While enrolling in a formal course can be beneficial, free options like language-learning apps or picking up a book from your local library can also help. If you want to develop a new skill or learn a musical instrument there is lots of free tuition on YouTube.

Cut down on drinking

If you’re a heavy drinker, cutting down may reduce your risk of cognitive decline. This is because excessive alcohol consumption, over a long period of time, can cause brain damage and increase your risk of developing dementia.

Instead, try and keep to the recommended amount of up to 14 units per week, spread over at least three separate days.

Ms Vandelli concluded: “All of the above promote a healthy mind and body and could help prevent dementia from developing.”

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