Contrary to popular belief, dementia is not a specific disease; it’s a group of symptoms that are associated with the slow decline of cognitive abilities. Symptoms of dementia include memory loss, reduced ability to speak, decline in processing speed, and loss of visual capabilities. Most commonly, dementia is brought on by Alzheimer’s disease, but can be influenced by other factors such as stroke (which causes vascular dementia) and thyroid problems.
Dementia results from damage to the brain cells that control cognitive abilities. There are many risk factors that can cause this damage. Even though there is no guarantee that anything can completely prevent the development of dementia, there are a few steps to take that can decrease the risk.
1. Klotho Therapy
By far, the biggest risk factor for dementia is aging. While actual age cannot be altered, scientists are attempting to figure out ways to naturally reverse the body’s aging process. Klotho is a naturally occurring protein that, when it is found in higher amounts in humans, has been shown to delay or stop some of the side effects of aging, such as dementia. Scientists are currently developing a klotho therapy for human treatment.
2. Stay Physically Active
Studies have shown that lack of physical activity is accountable for 2.6% of the risk of dementia onset. Older adults who don’t exercise are at a higher risk than older adults who do exercise. Because of this, a great way to prevent dementia is to exercise at least 30 minutes a day, 5 times a week. Strenuous workouts are not necessary, but an consistent increases in heart rate can be beneficial. In addition to its physical benefits, exercise has been shown to improve mental health as well.
3. Eat Healthy
It is incredibly important to supplement physical exercise with eating a healthy, balanced diet. Cutting down on saturated fats as much as possible, and watching the intake of processed sugar, cheese, and bread are key to a healthy diet. Reading nutrition labels can help keep people informed about what they are consuming.
4. Drink Sensibly
Alcohol consumption must be moderated in order to maintain healthy cognitive function. Typically, up to one drink per day for women and two drinks per day for men constitutes healthy consumption. Exceeding these limits regularly can significantly increase the risk of dementia.
5. Keep Your Brain Active
Several studies have shown a link between mentally-stimulating activities and a lower risk of dementia. Remaining mentally active by engaging in different activities each day like puzzles, word searches, crosswords, or card games can help in keeping cognitive function active. Learning something new can stimulate the brain. All of these activities motivate the brain to make connections, instead of staying stagnant.
6. Social Contact
Along with keeping the brain active, studies have found that regular social contact also reduces the risk of dementia. Loneliness is a big risk factor. Being around people that provide mental stimulation is important. Seeing loved ones and making new friends by joining clubs, activities, or hobbies can help mitigate loneliness and provide positive social stimulation.