One of the biggest fears among people in their fifties and over is of developing dementia in later life. According to a recent survey conducted in the UK, people fear cancer and dementia equally for themselves, and the fear of a partner developing dementia is slightly, at 84%, higher than the fear of developing cancer themselves, at 82%.
Dementia is usually an irreversible condition. It is occasionally caused by vitamin deficiencies or thyroid conditions which can be treated, thereby eliminating the symptoms. However the majority of dementia cases, at least 80%, are caused by Alzheimers Disease. With no cure currently available for Alzheimers Disease, there is extra emphasis on prevention for this debilitating condition. There are no fail-safe approaches for avoiding dementia or AD, but there are several things which many experts believe can at least help to reduce the risk.
Your diet should include foods rich in Omega 3 oils. Fish such as mackerel, salmon and sardines are all ideal, or use fish oil capsules if you don’t enjoy eating fish. Vegetarian oils such as hemp and walnut are a good alternative. Eat a wide range of fruit and vegetables, and drink green tea daily. Avoid frequent consumption of foods containing high amounts of white flour and sugar as these can trigger glucose spikes, causing inflammation in the brain.
The Alzheimers Research and Prevention Foundation advises that people can significantly reduce their risk of acquiring Alzheimers disease in later life through regular exercise. Exercise can also offer benefits for those who have started to develop cognitive function impairment as it can help to delay further decline. Walking and swimming are ideal forms of exercise, and any type of activity helps such as housework or gardening.
Sleep deprivation is a serious problem which can lead to reduced thinking capability. Deep sleep is needed for optimal memory function. Aim for 8 hours sleep per night.
Taking up a new hobby or a class are ideal ways of stimulating the mind as are puzzles, crosswords, and Sudoku. Scientists are currently investigating whether gaming can help older people to keep their minds in better health, as increasing numbers of older people are using video games of various sorts, from puzzles on an iPad to fitness games on a Wii. Anything which keeps your brain active is good - there’s truth in the saying “use it or lose it”.