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How to reduce the risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s


According to WHO Director-General, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, in the next 30 years the number of people with dementia is expected to triple


And although it’s impossible to guarantee that you won’t develop dementia, research has shown that there are some things you can do to reduce the likelihood. 


Dementia Nurse, Chrissy HusseyWe caught up with Hospiscare’s very own dementia specialist, Chrissy Hussey, about whether there are any actions we can take to protect ourselves from developing dementia. 



What’s your top piece of advice for reducing the likelihood of dementia or Alzheimer’s? 

Well it’s all about numbers really… And in most cases, lowering them! 

Let’s start with the weighing scales and calorie numbers. We need to think about maintaining a healthy weight and BMI that suits us as individuals. For many of us, that might mean lowering our calorie intake. 


That makes sense. What about what types of food we eat? 

If we are looking at food we need to think fats, especially saturated fats. It’s important to try not to consume more than 20g of them a day, with an ideal cholesterol level of below 5mmol/L. 

And then there’s sugar. Research suggests it’s best to eat no more than 90g of sugar a day with an ideal blood sugar level of about 7.8 mmol/L at least two hours after eating.


And what about other things apart from food? 

And alongside calories, blood sugar and cholesterol numbers we need to add in the number 10,000. That’s the minimum number of daily steps to help get your body moving, your blood flowing to the brain and your heart pumping to help get it there. It gives the brain oxygen and nutrients to maintain normal brain function. 

So maybe we need to think even bigger than 10,000, and get moving that bit more, by perhaps trying to ditch the car and try to walk, run or cycle instead!

 

Person walking in a park Walking  over 10,000 steps per day can help reduce the risk of dementia
 

And while we are thinking about blood and getting it flowing, exercise will also help to reduce the blood pressure numbers to an ideal level of 120/ 80 (depending on the individual). 


What other tips do you have for anyone trying to reduce their risk?

It seems like everything has a part to play in trying to prevent dementia, but sometimes it just develops on its own accord despite all our best efforts! 

Interestingly, research at Exeter University has proven that ‘brain-training’ by doing brain teaser puzzles has no protective effect against dementia. However, other research suggests that learning a language, a musical instrument or learning new dances does help, so it might be time to ditch the brain-trainer, and take up a new hobby! 
 

Playing the guitarLearning a musical instrument can help maintain brain health
 

I suppose the adage ‘use it or lose it’ does still apply, as new brain cells are formed as a result of activity. That’s physical activity as well as cognitive.  

 

For more information about how to support someone with dementia, click here

 

Hospiscare is a local adult hospice charity, providing high quality care and support to people with any type of terminal illness, and those close to them, in Exeter, Mid and East Devon. A gift to Hospiscare in your Will helps ensure the future of the charity in Devon for generations to come.