Five ways to lower your risk for dementia

Photo Credit: Peshkova

There is a vast amount of ongoing research in the area of brain health. One of the most active fields of research relates to the avoidance or delay of dementia. Long debated, the topic is now the subject of numerous books, medical school courses and continuing education seminars for medical and behavioral professionals.

No one knows if specific activities can flat-out prevent or even delay dementia, but there is plenty of support for a hypothesis that says the disease can at least be slowed down. How have medical researchers come to this conclusion, and what might it mean for young and middle-aged people who want to do everything in their power to stave off the pernicious symptoms and effects of common forms of dementia like Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and others?

Here’s a summary of five strategies that might play a role in preventing, slowing, or possibly even reversing dementia and its symptoms:

Stay Physically Active

Regular exercise seems to play a role in staving off memory-related disorders, according to multiple studies. By exercise, the medical literature usually refers to light physical activity several times per week. That might mean walking, swimming, or riding a bicycle a few times each week. Daily walking bouts of 20 minutes or more seem to be an effective way of benefiting the entire body.

Maintain Social Networks

People who maintain strong friendships and take part in social activities on a regular basis suffer a lower incidence of dementia-related diseases and symptoms. In fact, one of the characteristics of Alzheimer’s disease is the desire to avoid others and stay away from social gatherings.

Attend to Mental Health Concerns

Whether you reside in a large or small town, be sure to speak with your doctor about any mental health issues you encounter, like depression, memory loss, anxiety, social withdrawal, temper flare-ups and similar warning signs. If you don’t see a physician regularly, you can search online for a behavioral expert in your city. If you’re in the Bay area, for example, a search for Oakland therapy providers will yield a long list of choices. Select someone near you and ask for a short counseling session. This is an ideal way to get answers to questions you have.

Don’t Drink to Excess or Smoke

Frequent alcohol consumption, smoking and illegal drug use can contribute to brain-related disorders. Some studies of Alzheimer’s patients revealed that there might be a link between cigarette smoking and the disease. The alcohol connection is telling. It’s thought that heavy drinkers simply have more head injuries than non-drinkers. And head trauma is one of the key contributors to later-life problems like Alzheimer’s, some experts believe.

Protect Your Head from Injury

There’s a line of research that has identified blows to the head as a possible cause of brain disorders. A long list of sports figures, for example, have developed Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s earlier than usual after suffering hundreds of powerful knocks on their skulls. Mohammed Ali is the most famous, but there are hundreds of others. The lesson is protecting your head at all times, which means wearing a helmet every time you get on a bicycle and buckling up whenever you get in a car.

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