One of the most common questions I get asked when I talk to people about dementia is “How can I reduce my risk of getting dementia?” – it’s a completely valid question!
While there is little we can do about our genetic profile, adapting our lifestyles offers a significant opportunity to improve our cognitive reserve.
What is cognitive reserve?
Cognitive reserve is a potential mechanism to cope with brain damage so if you do develop dementia or other conditions that affect the brain and cognitive functioning, the less likely you are to experience symptoms in the same way. So, you could say the cognitive reserve is like a shield of armour for your brain…and the more you build it up, the stronger and bigger the shield!
Activities that engage your brain, as well as having high levels of social interaction, are said to increase the cognitive reserve and can help in reducing your risk of developing dementia.
Here are some suggestions:
A massive one I always share with people is that ol’ stay connected mantra that we hear so often. I can honestly tell you it is so true. As human beings we are social creatures and maintaining social connections is so so important for our health, especially in the day and age where there are sadly so many people living in isolation and bearing such deep loneliness.
It is not always easy to keep on top of sustaining relationships but it is really is good for you 🙂 There are some awesome groups out there such as meetup.com where you can meet likeminded individuals who have similar interests…it may just be worth trying.
Learn a new language
Ok so this is a terrible one for me…my idea of speaking a different language is actually speaking English in a terrible Italian accent (Italian seems to be my forte). My range is not that exciting although I do know how to count to thirty in German…. go me!
Anyway, the reason that learning a new language is so good for keeping the mind attune and engaged is that it helps stimulate the brain which can help develop the cognitive reserve…because as we all know, it is definitely not easy learning a new language.
Eat well, sleep well and exercise
I know, I know…nothing new here…but again it’s true. The healthier we generally are, in terms of eating, sleeping and exercising the less likely our risk is to develop such conditions.
Alzheimer’s Research UK states that people who are physically active have a lower risk of memory and thinking problems. Not only that, staying physically active also reduces the risk of other health conditions like high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes, which are known risk factors for dementia. Therefore, staying active not only helps maintain a healthy body but can help to keep our brain healthy too.
Keeping your heart healthy
A good way to think about it is that whatever keeps your heat healthy can also help keep your brain healthy too 🙂
- Stopping smoking if you can
- Trying to maintain a regular BMI below 25
- Regularly eating fruits and vegetables
- Moderate alcohol consumption
- And physical exercise, which I have already mentioned … but this is great for keeping that wonderful heart of ours in optimal health too
Hope this helps
X Rebecca x