How to reduce your dementia risk
Friday, 5 July 2019
Dementia is an umbrella term used to describe a collection of conditions. The main symptom includes a reduction in cognitive function which impacts on social functioning and activities of daily living. Dementia can be diagnosed at any age, however it is more common among those over the age of 65, and in those that are living with type 2 diabetes. The risk of developing dementia in the general population is around 10%, but for people with diabetes this risk increases to approximately 20%.
The diabetes link
The cause of this increased risk of dementia among people with diabetes is not completely understood, however it is thought to involve a number of factors including:
- High blood glucose levels which can damage the cells of the body, including blood vessels in the brain
- High levels of insulin in the blood which can cause damage to blood vessels and cells in the brain
- A build-up of proteins in the brain, which is associated with Alzheimer’s disease
While some risks of dementia, such as age and genetics can’t be changed, many risk factors have been shown to be modifiable and therefore may play a powerful role in dementia prevention and management. Increasingly research has shown that the risk of dementia can be reduced by addressing the following:
- Physical inactivity
- High blood pressure
- Low education
- Hearing loss
- Social isolation
Research shows a combination of strategies can prevent the progression of dementia, by up to 22% in some cases.
Cognitive reserve has been shown to be a protective factor that reduces the risk of dementia, even within people that have a genetic predisposition. Cognitive reserve is your brain’s ability to find alternate ways of getting things done, by changing the way it operates or adding new resources to cope with challenges. Leisure activities, physical activity and intellectual stimulation are all reserve enhancing factors that could be employed to reduce dementia risk.
Additional strategies for risk reduction include:
- Increasing physical activity. Research shows those who engage in physical activity are more likely to maintain cognition than those who do not. It also improves many of the risk factors associated with dementia such as depression, diabetes, high blood pressure and obesity.
- Engaging in social activity. This has been shown to improve cognitive reserve and reduce feelings of isolation and depression.
- Treating cardiovascular risk factors and diabetes. Managing blood pressure and blood glucose levels will reduce the acceleration of cognitive decline.
- Stopping smoking. Utilising support to create a plan to quit smoking will be a powerful strategy in reducing your risk. Call Quit line on 13 78 48 or chat to your doctor for more guidance.
- Cognitive stimulation. This is a great way to improve cognitive reserve with many studies reporting a reduced risk of developing dementia. Cognitive stimulation can include everything from artistic pursuits to intellectual study to religious interests.