Dementia is on the rise world-wide
Dementia is a costly societal problem, as this graphic from the UK government shows.
But above all, dementia is a terrible condition for the individual involved and perhaps even more for their families and friends – it is very hard to relate to a friend or relative who can no longer recognise us! In fact, most people fear dementia more than cancer and death itself.
Here are some of the symptoms of dementia:
It is clear that it is important and very desirable to stave off dementia. And healthy lifestyle choices can help a lot in this regard.
But how do we know how well we are doing so far? Are we at risk? Luckily some tools are becoming available lately.
How to prevent dementia?
A useful approach to preventing dementia might involve:
Step 1: Check what your current status is
Step 2: determine what course adjustments are needed
Step 3: implementing them consistently over time
How to check your current dementia risk:
Doctors are developing a test which will reveal our “brain age” by asking a series of lifestyle questions (including fitness, drinking, smoking, weight and cholesterol) that are currently thought to increase the risk of dementia later in life.
The new tool to calculate how many brain cells we are losing and how rapidly is being developed by Public Health England (PHE). It is designed to encourage us to engage with healthy habits before it is too late.
Don’t stick your head in the sand, and find out now!
The computer-based test will be piloted by GPs and offered to middle-aged patients. It does not “diagnose” diagnose dementia, but it claims to give you a good indication of your “brain age” and therefore of your relative risk of dementia.
Ready? Here we go…
Answer each question either Yes or No
1. I get seven or more hours of sleep each night.
2. I eat at least five or more servings of fruits and vegetables high in antioxidants (citrus fruits, green peppers, spinach, broccoli, apples, tomatoes, kale) daily.
3. I eat at least one serving of blueberries, raspberries, or blackberries daily.
4. I eat baked or grilled fish high in omega-3 fatty acids (such as salmon and mackerel) at least three times a week.
5. I take fish oil supplements high in omega-3 fatty acids or flaxseed supplements at least five times per week.
6. I take folic acid supplementation with my daily multivitamin.
7. I take a low-dose of aspirin, which studies suggest might slow brain decline by maintaining bloodflow to the brain, daily.
8. I drink red wine or grape juice at least five times a week.
9. I exercise most days of the week for at least 30 minutes each time.
10. I read challenging books, do crossword puzzles or Sudoku, or engage in activities that require active learning, memorization, computation, analysis, and problem solving at least five times a week.
11. My total cholesterol is less than 5 millimoles per litre (mmol/l).
12. My LDL (“bad”) cholesterol – that causes disease in arteries and reduces blood-flow to the brain – is less than 3mmol/l (your GP or practice nurse can carry out a cholesterol test and will take a blood sample either with a syringe or by pricking your finger).
13. I have “longevity genes” in my family, with members who lived to 80 and older without memory loss.
14. I am not obese (less than 1st4lbs overweight for a woman; less than 2st1lb overweight for a man).
15. I eat a Mediterranean style diet (high in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, nuts, and seeds, and olive oil as the source of fat; little red meat).
16. I use olive oil and no trans-fat spreads instead of butter or margarine.
17. I have never smoked cigarettes.
18. I have normal blood pressure.
19. I do not have diabetes.
20. I do not have metabolic syndrome (the medical term for a combination of diabetes, high blood pressure and obesity).
21. I do not have a sleep disorder such as snoring or obstructive sleep apnoea or untreated insomnia.
22. Daily uncontrolled stress is not a problem for me.
23. I have a strong support group and enjoy many activities with friends, colleagues, and family members.
24. I have no problems with short- or long-term memory.
25. I’m ready to prevent Alzheimer’s and will do whatever it takes.
Count how many of the 25 statements you marked ‘Yes’ and write down your score.
HOW TO INTERPRET YOUR SCORE:
23–25 Subtract 15 years from your chronological age for your Real Brain Age. Unless things change, your risk is extremely low.
20–22 Subtract 10 years from your chronological age for your Real Brain Age. You are doing a lot to take care of your physical and mental health. Pay attention to those questions you marked ‘No’ to see what changes you need to make.
15-19 Your Real Brain Age is the same as your chronological age. You could be at risk of developing dementia and should pay attention to questions you answered ‘No’ to and make changes.
12–14 Add five years to your chronological age for your Real Brain Age. With this disparity between your Real Brain Age and chronological age, you could have increased the chances of dementia. Review your answers and where needs work, and visit your GP to discuss the results.
0–11 Add 10 years to your chronological age for your Real Brain Age. Get in touch with your doctor to discuss health problems you have and what you can do to manage any problems.
How did you do? Let me know in the comments below…
THERE IS A LOT YOU CAN DO TO PREVENT DEMENTIA
This (above) is what the test says. In reality, the doctor is not the only person that can help. There is A LOT of stuff you yourself can do, from nutrition and targeted supplementation to stress management and exercise. In general, anything that makes your BODY healthier, also makes your BRAIN healthier. But you need the correct information to act upon, as well as the motivation and support to consistently apply the new lifestyle changes.
1. Improve Your Diet. Start from incorporating more fruit and vegetables in your diet, and “brain-friendly” foods, including the 5 “brain superfoods” below (one might say that there are no actual “brain superfoods”, but these foods are a pretty good start!)
2. Avoid “PolyPharmacy Hell”
Dr Jon Barron reports that, in 2013, the average number of prescriptions per capita in the United States was:
- 50-64 years old: 19.2 prescriptions per person
- 65-79 years old: 27.3 prescriptions per person
- 80+ years old: 29.1 prescriptions per person
Nearly 50% of older adults take one or more medications that are NOT medically necessary
The problem is that it is simply impossible for anyone to understand all of the possible side effects that can occur from mixing that many drugs. In fact, medical authorities now believe that such side effects may represent 15-30 percent of all DEMENTIA diagnoses.
One-in-four patients suffer “observable” side effects from prescription drugs
A further, even bigger, problem with taking so many medications is that research has clearly established a strong relationship between polypharmacy (taking multiple medications) and negative clinical consequences such as cognitive impairment, functional decline, and falling.
Obviously, some medications may be necessary. But you can use a healthy lifestyle to AVOID having to go on so many of them in the first place!
3. Keep your HDL Levels High
4. Perfect Your Nutrition and Supplementation Plan
Proper nutrition and targeted supplements can support your brain and healthy aging.
If you want to find out why a specific type of nutrition plan seems to help Alzheimers and other brain-related conditions, or the specific fats you should include in your diet daily (and at what times of the day), you may want to ask me, or watch the Alzheimers summit.
5. Start exercising!
Exercising in mid-life has been shown to help prevent dementia when you are older. While it is always positive to start being physically more active. starting around 49 years of age will prevent dementia when you are older. A study run by the University of Helsinki tracked the health of 3,050 twins in a 25-year study. Participants who did intense exercise but ALSO those who did MODERATE exercise (a little more than walking), had better cognitive abilities when they were 75 than those who did no exercise at all.
In animal studies, lack of exercise is one of the risk factors for dementia in old age, along with obesity and diabetes, in animal studies. The Finnish Twin Cohort study is one of the first to establish this same risk in humans, and also to determine the level of exercise that needs to be performed to avoid dementia.
Walking, and any type of exercise will help (in different ways and to different extents).
- Walking – A study of 2,257 men aged between 71 and 93 years assessed for two years. reported that during that time 158 developed dementia. Researchers found that the men who walked less than a quarter of a mile every day were nearly twice as likely to develop dementia compared with those who walked two miles a day.
Clearly exercise and taking the air have a part to play in mental well-being but the thinking that goes with it will also help. In short: walk MORE than a quarter of a mile every day, and ideally more (2 miles).
- Other types of exercise may stimulate the mind more directly, though any exercise will help ONLY if it is being carried out (as opposed to skipped).
Personally, I am a great fan of Pilates, yoga and tai chi (for the mind-body aspect), as they all improve balance, muscle coordination and body awareness, as well as improving strength. In other words, they work on the link between brain and body.
Get Expert Advice
Exercise stimulates the brain to stay healthy and youthful! While you can experience some benefits just walking (as seen above), you can experience further benefits in my classes (all suitable for over 50s, 60s etc). To discuss your health and fitness needs, do get in touch!
Personal Trainer, Rehab Trainer, Pilates Specialist and Sports Massage Therapist