Dementia, a condition that affects millions of people around the world. Dementia is not a specific disease, but a term that describes a group of symptoms affecting memory, thinking and social abilities. Dementia can interfere with your daily life and make it hard to do the things you enjoy.
But what causes dementia? And can we prevent it? Well, there are many factors that can increase or decrease your risk of developing dementia. Some of these factors are modifiable, meaning you can change them by making healthy choices. Others are non-modifiable, meaning you cannot control them.
Let’s start with the non-modifiable factors. These include:
- Age: The risk of Alzheimer’s disease, vascular dementia, and several other dementias goes up significantly with advancing age. Most cases affect those of 65 years and older.
- Family history: Those who have parents or siblings with dementia are more likely to develop dementia themselves. This may be due to genetic factors or shared environmental influences.
- Genetics: Some rare forms of dementia are caused by mutations in specific genes that are inherited from one or both parents. These include familial Alzheimer’s disease, frontotemporal dementia, and Huntington’s disease.
Now let’s look at the modifiable factors. These include:
- Diet and exercise: Research shows that lack of exercise increases the risk of dementia. And while no specific diet is proven to prevent dementia, eating a balanced diet that is low in saturated fat and high in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, fish, and nuts may help protect your brain.
- Excessive alcohol use: Drinking large amounts of alcohol has long been known to cause brain changes. Several large studies have shown that heavy drinking is associated with an increased risk of dementia.
- Cardiovascular risk factors: These include high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, obesity, and smoking. These conditions can damage the blood vessels that supply oxygen and nutrients to your brain, leading to vascular dementia or mixed dementia (a combination of Alzheimer’s disease and vascular dementia).
- Cognitive activity and social engagement: Keeping your mind active and staying socially connected may help reduce your risk of dementia. You can do this by reading, learning new skills, playing games, joining clubs, volunteering, or staying in touch with friends and family.
As you can see, there are many things you can do to lower your risk of dementia or delay its onset. Of course, there is no guarantee that you will never develop dementia, but by taking care of your health and lifestyle, you can improve your chances of living a long and fulfilling life.