In dementia, memory loss is accompanied by difficulties with thinking and reasoning as well as an inability to carry out daily tasks and activities independently. There are many different types of dementia, with Alzheimer's disease being the most common. Vascular disease is a major cause of dementia in many people living with this type of cognitive decline, including some who have been diagnosed with Alzheimer's.
The good news is that you can reduce your chances of developing dementia. Board-certified neurologist Timothy Ownbey, DO, diagnoses and treats a full range of neurological conditions in adults, including dementia, and is your best resource when it comes to keeping your brain healthy.
People who are overweight or obese are more likely to develop dementia later in life. Carrying excess weight takes a toll on the body and contributes to premature aging, raising the risk of chronic diseases as you get older.
Obesity is a risk factor for chronic cardiovascular diseases, which affect blood vessels in the brain and cause blood flow to be diminished. As a result, inflammation and oxidative stress (an imbalance between oxygen-containing molecules and antioxidants) occurs, ultimately resulting in the death of brain cells.
Weight loss, avoiding excess calories, and reducing sugary beverages are some of the ways you can promote weight balance
High blood pressure damages blood vessels that supply the brain with nutrients. People who have high blood pressure during their middle years are more likely to develop dementia later in life.
If you are over 40, make sure you are aware of your blood pressure. If it’s high, work with your doctor to get it under control and keep it within a target range. This will protect you against heart disease, cognitive decline, and other related issues.
Forming social connections strengthens the brain and protects against cognitive decline. Social isolation, on the other hand, may increase people's risk of developing dementia. People who have been single their entire lives and those who have been widowed are more likely to develop dementia than people who have been married their entire lives.
Go out and talk to people, go walking with others, and have a chat over tea, coffee, or food — activities that you might find enjoyable to do with others. While the coronavirus shutdown has left many people feeling socially isolated, you can still socialize while practicing social distancing.
Staying physically active and exercising on a regular basis lower the risk of developing dementia. Exercise may stimulate the release of neurochemicals and the formation of new neurons in the brain, resulting in improved mood, memory, and learning. People who maintain or improve their fitness over time are less likely to develop dementia.
Aim to get at least 150 minutes of exercise per week. Walking is an excellent place to start. It’s easy on the joints and body.
Smoking increases the risk of dementia because it damages blood vessels. Chemicals in cigarettes may also promote inflammation, further putting brain health at risk.
If you're a smoker, it's not too late to give up the habit. After all, older adults who quit smoking may have a significantly lower risk of developing Alzheimer's disease. If you need help quitting, talk to your primary care physician about resources and medications to help you quit.
While there are risk factors for dementia that you cannot control, such as age and genetics, you can use the tips and strategies mentioned here to lower the chances of developing dementia. To learn more about how to protect your brain health, schedule a visit with Dr. Ownbey at our Albuquerque, New Mexico, office.