There are a lot of concerns about dementia-related diseases these days, and for good reason. For instance, the facts surrounding Alzheimer’s are scary. Tales of early-onset dementia, people having the condition but not knowing it, and other horror stories abound.
Perhaps you’re taking care of your elderly friend or parent and seeing them struggle with this illness. You might be thinking, “What can I do to prevent that from happening to me?” In the past, senility was often considered an inevitable part of aging. However, thanks to the many advents of modern medicine, we know that’s not always the case. Read on to find out some of the best ways to prevent dementia.
Dial up your diet
You’ve probably heard for years that minimizing your intake of saturated and a trans fat is good for your heart, but did you know it can benefit your mind as well? These types of fats are the ones that increase your cholesterol levels, which can lead to the production of beta-amyloid plaques in the brain — a precursor of Alzheimer’s disease. In a study done by the Chicago Health and Aging Project (CHAP), participants who ate foods containing the most saturated fat tripled their chances of getting Alzheimer’s disease.
And although moms have been telling us all for years to eat our fruits and veggies, it turns out that was more than just nagging! Vegetables, legumes, fruits, and whole grains have vitamins and minerals such as B6 and folate, which have been shown to protect the brain. In the CHAP study mentioned above, cognitive decline was reduced when a person’s diet was rich in plant substances. In addition, the risk for obesity and type 2 diabetes also decreased – and it’s believed both conditions play a part in Alzheimer’s disease.
Finally, in addition to vitamins like B6 and folate, taking 5 mg of vitamin E daily can also help keep your brain in good shape. This antioxidant has been linked to a reduced risk of Alzheimer’s, and is in many different types of nuts and seeds. It’s also found in delicious fruits such as mangoes and papayas, or you can get your fill from avocadoes, tomatoes, red bell peppers, spinach, or fortified breads and cereals. However, experts do recommended acquiring it from food sources, because supplements with vitamin E haven’t shown the same benefits.
Study your supplements
It’s not only the vitamin B6 that your body may need to protect itself from dementia – vitamin B12 may be crucial too (yes, there’s more than one “B!”). Mostly found in animal products and fortified foods, it’s believed that B12 helps decrease bodily levels of homocysteine, an amino acid linked to cognitive impairment.
In one study performed at Oxford University, older adults with elevated homocysteine levels and cognition problems had improved recall abilities when additional vitamin B was provided. It’s especially important to make sure you’re getting enough of this vitamin if you’re over the age of fifty, or if you follow a vegetarian or vegan diet.
However, avoiding dementia isn’t all about popping vitamins and supplements. In fact, you may want to stop taking multivitamins with iron and copper unless your physician directions you to do otherwise. Since the majority of people acquire enough of these trace metals through the foods they eat, taking them in excess is actually linked to a decline in cognition.
Start taking steps to prevent dementia today
If you’ve spent a lifetime developing unhealthy habits, you can’t turn back the clock. But you can begin taking steps to prevent dementia right now. In fact, experts believe you may be able to reduce your risk of Alzheimer’s by 70-80%. Speak to your physician about your personal risk factors for developing dementia-related conditions, and what else you might be able to do to combat them. By adopting a healthier lifestyle now, you’ll be making great strides towards enjoying an agile mind for decades to come!
If you are unsure of how to best help an aging loved one, the trained and compassionate staff at the Institute on Aging is here to help you make that decision and gain the best in at-home senior care. Contact us to find out more.