As people grow older, many become interested in ways to lower their chances of developing dementia. Although the cause and preventive measures of dementia have yet to be scientifically proven, there are certain lifestyle changes that could potentially lower the risk of developing dementia:
1. Exercise – regular exercise will not only improve healthand maintain physical fitness, but also reduce the risk of arteriosclerosis (the hardening of blood vessels walls). Arteriosclerosis can affect blood circulation in the brain, which is one of the causes of dementia. Studies have also shown that regular exercise can minimize the decline of brain function and the chance of developing dementia. Example of useful exercises include: brisk walking, jogging, biking, or swimming.
2. Habits that prevent the development of vascular disease – the risk factors of heart-related disease (vascular disease) may also cause arteriosclerosis, which leads to the narrowing of blood vessels. This can affect the blood supply to the heart, brain, and other organs. If the blood flow to the brain is slowed down or stopped, it may cause a stroke which can lead to dementia. The practices that reduce the risk of vascular disease includes: not smoking, lowering cholesterol levels, controlling diabetes, controlling high blood pressure and maintaining a healthy body weight. Through these practices (especially reducing high blood pressure) together with preventive measures for stroke, the chances of developing dementia will be greatly reduced.
3. Stimulating brain activities – studies have shown that engaging in activities that keep the brain active as we age can help improve memory and verbal ability. Therefore participation in these brain-exercising activities and social activities could reduce the risk of developing dementia. Some examples of these types of activities include: solving puzzles, playing Mahjong, reading, keeping aware of current events, and other hobbies.
Memory and Aging (32:48 min)
Dr. Tigerson Young, Clinical Psychologist, discusses how aging impacts memory and provides strategies to maintain good memory through-out aging. iCON Chinese Workshop at Health Fair 2015. Delivered in Cantonese with Chinese subtitles.
4. Social life – studies has shown that a small social circle where a person has too few friends will increase the chances of developing dementia by 60%. A larger social circle appears to be effective in preventing dementia. So it can be helpful to your mental health to continue to make new friends while still making an effort to keep in touch with old friends.
5. Getting adequate sleep and reducing stress – poor quality of sleep and too much stress can affect memory. As people age, a proper amount of sleep (minimum of eight hours) may help prevent memory loss.
Currently, many herbal formulas, vitamins, antioxidants and other drugs have claimed to prevent Alzheimer's and other dementias. Unfortunately, there is still a lack of evidence to show that these substances are effective.
Content provided by Dr. Raymond Ma, Family Physician