Help protect yourself against dementia

By Dementia Auckland

Dementia is most common in people over the age of 65, and people of all ages, ethnicities, gender and intellectual ability can develop it.

Alzheimers couple close up

It’s not contagious nor is it something to be ashamed of, and there are ways you may be able to help prevent or delay dementia.

While there has been extensive research into its causes, there is no one particular factor that can yet be attributed to an individual being diagnosed with the condition – it’s more likely it is a combination of things including age, genetic inheritance and environmental aspects.

From studies around the world, here are some tips which are believed to either prevent or delay the progress of dementia.

Exercise your brain…

Learning a new language challenges the grey cells in the brain and helps prevent them from deteriorating.

In a 2014 study, published by the University of Ghent in Belgium, researchers found that speaking more than one language can delay the onset of Alzheimer’s.

The study included 65 participants who were bilingual or multilingual, and 69 who only spoke one language.

According to the study, the manifestation and diagnosis of Alzheimer’s occurred at least four years later for the people who spoke more than one language. 

…but rest it too

While exercising your brain could be a vital step in delaying dementia, it seems to be important to rest it as well.

A number of studies have concluded meditation can prevent or delay dementia by creating new brain cells.

Man stretches doing yoga near lake

Earlier this year, scientists scanned the brains of 100 American people – 50 who regularly meditate, and 50 who don’t.

It was found the brains of people who meditate were in better condition than those who don’t.

In fact, the brains of people who meditate were in such good condition, they were calculated to be seven years younger than they really were.

For example, a 50-year-old meditating person was likely to have the brain of a 43-year- old.

It has also been found that people who practice meditation and yoga have less atrophy in the hippocampus, the area of the brain that is shrunken in people who have dementia.

It is also believed meditation protects the brain by increasing the production of protective tissues, decreasing stress, increasing cortical thickness (attributed to decision making and memory), and increasing grey matter, which slows the ageing of the brain.

While it’s possible these results could be due to the fact that people who practice yoga and meditation may lead healthier lives as a whole, it’s an opportunity too good to ignore.

Watch what you put into your body

Your body is your temple so it’s important you don’t fill it with junk.

According to a report from the World Health Organisation, those who smoke are 45 per cent more likely to develop dementia than non-smokers.

Limiting sugar intake and managing blood sugar are also important.

Diabetes has been linked to dementia with some experts even going so far as to say it’s the third type of diabetes.

People with diabetes are also twice as likely to develop Alzheimer’s.

Fruit and vegetables

On the upside, there are plenty of foods that are believed to help reduce the risk of developing dementia.

Fruit and vegetables with high levels of antioxidants may to help protect against some of the damage to brain cells associated with Alzheimer’s.

Vitamin K is found in green leafy vegetables or vitamin K supplements.

This is important because it regulates calcium in the bones and in the brain.

It’s been suggested those with low levels of vitamin K have dysregulated calcium in their brains, which causes some of the damage done to the brains of people with Alzheimer’s.

Fish is high in omega-3 fatty acids that help build brain cells and protect it against atrophy.

Eating fish is also believed to slow the progression of dementia.

Interestingly, those who eat a Mediterranean style diet – high in fish, chicken, vegetables and fruit, and olive oil – can also slow the progression of dementia.

Information for this article was sourced from www.alzheimers.net.

*Editor's note: Views expressed by contributors are not necessarily those of the Office for Seniors

For more information about dementia

If you would like to learn more about dementia, there is plenty of support available.

In the Auckland region alone, more than 15,000 people are living with dementia.

Dementia Auckland is one not-for-profit organisation dedicated to providing dementia support services and inspiring those living with dementia to make the most of life.

They believe with the right support programmes, improved environments, and connection to community, people affected by dementia can continue to make the most of each moment.

Many local organisations across New Zealand can help provide support, education, information and related services directly to members of the community who are living with dementia.

These services may include education to assist with understanding and living with a dementia diagnosis; support for family, friends and whānau coping with the demands of caring; and support groups and day programmes for people affected by dementia.

They can also advise you on the services available in your local community.

Visit www.alzheimers.org.nz for more information on services available near you.