Like all other diseases, Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia are linked to various risk factors. The good news is that we can work on some of these factors!
Around 40% of dementia cases are linked to modifiable factors and more specifically to lifestyle, researchers say. By changing certain lifestyle habits and taking care of our health, we can reduce, or even eliminate, some of these risk factors.
Here are a few examples of what we can do to stack the deck in our favour to protect our brain:
A healthy diet: A healthy diet gives our brain the nutrients and vitamins it needs to function. Eating healthy foods can help reduce the risk of cognitive decline.
Physical activity: Physical activity increases blood flow and oxygen to the brain. It lowers blood pressure and bad cholesterol, too. Exercising regularly also promotes cognitive performance and can reduce the risk of developing dementia.
Intellectual stimulation: People who have a rich and stimulating intellectual life are at a lower risk of cognitive decline or of developing dementia. Leisure activities that challenge your brain – such as learning a new language, doing a crossword, or singing – promote cognitive health.
A good social network: Social interactions stimulate our ability to think and help prevent cognitive decline and the risk of dementia.
Alcohol consumption: Excessive alcohol consumption can disrupt your appetite and interfere with the absorption of essential vitamins, which causes damage to the brain. People who drink moderately, or not at all, have a lower risk of neurocognitive disorders compared to those who consume excessive amounts of alcohol. Moderate consumption of alcohol is therefore always “in good taste.”
Depression: Experiencing a major depression at an advanced age is linked to the risk of developing a neurodegenerative disease. It is therefore important to treat depression.
Cardiovascular disease: High blood pressure, type 2 diabetes and high cholesterol levels are risk factors for cardiovascular disease (heart attack, stroke) and dementia. Proper management of these conditions can reduce the risk of dementia later in life.
Obesity: Obesity increases the risk of diabetes and high blood pressure, which are associated with a greater risk of dementia.
Hearing loss: A link has been found between hearing loss and the risk of developing Alzheimer’s. How exactly hearing loss increases the risk remains unclear, but we can imagine that it can lead to social isolation, loss of independence, and difficulty going about daily activities. For these reasons, it is important to take care of your hearing health.
Sleep problems: A lack of sleep is believed to be associated with the brain pathology leading to Alzheimer’s. It is therefore important to take steps to get enough good-quality sleep and to treat sleep disorders if they arise (such as sleep apnea).
Smoking: Cigarette smoking is addictive and leads to many health problems involving the lungs, heart and blood pressure. The risk of developing a neurocognitive disorder is higher for smokers than for non-smokers and ex-smokers.