Reducing your Risk of Dementia
The actions we take every day impact our health outcomes.
Through conscious daily actions, we can improve our health and potentially delay the onset of developing diseases such as dementia.
There is no specific method, treatment, or substance that is proven to prevent dementia. However, research has shown there are things you can do to manage your lifestyle relating to modifiable risk factors to reduce your risk of dementia.
What is good for your heart is good for your brain.
Living a heart healthy lifestyle will also lead to you living a brain healthy lifestyle and improving your overall health. Please read below to discover the 10 actions you can take every day for a healthier brain.
Delaying the Onset of Dementia
Managing the modifiable risk factors of dementia through our lifestyle choices are proven to improve health outcomes and delay the onset of diseases such as dementia.
Modifiable risk factors are things that we have control over changing in our life. These include our diet, amount of movement we get in a day, and
Risk factors are aspects of your lifestyle, environment, and genetic background that increase the likelihood of getting a disease. It has been estimated that 40% of dementias can be prevented through modifiable risk factors that include health conditions such as heart disease, obesity, and diabetes, limiting alcohol consumption, cessation of smoking, and managing your social and mental health.
Risk factors on their own are not causes of disease-- risk factors represent an increased chance, but not a certainty, that dementia will develop. Having little or no exposure to risk factors does not necessarily protect a person from developing dementia.
10 Actions for a Healthier Brain at Any Age:
Be physically active each day.
Physical activity pumps blood to the brain, which nourishes the cells with nutrients and oxygen and regular exercise helps to reduce stress and improve your mood. What you can do is reduce sedentary time and move more.
It is important to focus on activities that you enjoy doing and that work for your abilities—you may even find a partner to do these activities with you. It is recommended that you aim to get a minimum of 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity per week.
Protect your heart and eat a heart-healthy diet.
Monitor your blood pressure, cholesterol, and diabetes closely, along with eating a balanced diet full of nutrient rich foods that make you feel good.
Remember: What’s good for the heart is also good for the brain.
Stay socially engaged.
Maintain your social network and stay connected with friends and family. People who feel isolated and lonely are more likely to develop depression and eventually long-term health effects such as dementia and heart disease.
Try finding a friend or group to do activities with while enjoying social time. You can try following up with old friends or look for opportunities to make new ones such as group classes or volunteering.
Manage your medical conditions.
Keep on top of your overall health because medical conditions such as strokes, type 2 diabetes, hypertension, obesity, and down syndrome are all medical conditions that can increase the risk of developing dementia.
Managing these conditions as best as possible with the help of your medical provider by tracking your blood pressure, cholesterol, blood glucose, and blood sugar numbers because your overall health is directly linked to your brain health.
Challenge your thinking.
Our education level influences our health. Individuals who continue learning throughout life have a lower instance of developing dementia because a lack of education can increase the risk of developing a neurodegenerative disease such as dementia.
Take on mental leisure activities that you enjoy and always try to learn new things, no matter what age you are—you are never too old to learn something new.
Get 6 to 8 hours of sleep every night.
Try to sleep around 7 hours each night to help maintain your brain health, sleeping gives your body time to heal, reset, detox, and support healthy brain functioning.
Manage your stress and mental health.
Remember that depression is more than just feeling down. Our mental health affects our physical health and not properly managing things like depression, anxiety, and stress can have a serious effect on the health of our brains and bodies. Please reach out to your healthcare provider or somewhere that offers support to manage this.
To reduce stress, we recommend taking time for yourself, do activities you enjoy, and rest when you need.
Avoid excessive alcohol and smoking.
Individuals who over-indulge and misuse alcohol experience more adverse health effects later in life, which includes liver failure, cancers, and brain damage leading to dementia.
We recommend still enjoying your time with family and friends but encourage you to think about limiting your intake of alcoholic beverages.
Cutting back or quitting smoking is recommended by health professionals for optimal health outcomes, and we recommend working with a health care provider if you need support with this.
Protect your hearing.
It is important to maintain your hearing, use hearing aids if you need them, and protect your ears from loud noises. Please talk to your doctor about care options for managing your hearing and consider turning the volume down in your headphones and stereos.
Limit your risk of head injury.
Steer clear of activities where you might put your brain at risk of harm and be sure to take efforts to protect your head in high risk activities such as bike riding and contact sports. Trauma such as concussions-particularly those that are repeated and cause loss on consciousness- has serious implications on the brain.
Significance of Actions to Reducing Risk
The Alzheimer Society of Canada published a report, The Landmark Study, which analyzes and forecasts the state of dementia in Canada.
According to the Landmark Study, it is expected that the number of people living with dementia in Saskatchewan will more than double in the next 30 years. Under current trends, the projections for are as follows:
- 2020: 17,500 (62.0% female)
- 2050: 42,300 (62.7% female)
It is important to remember, dementia does not only impact the individual who is diagnosed, a care partner is a crucial part of the trajectory of dementia. A large portion of care partners end up being unpaid family members. The Landmark Study estimated and projected the number of unpaid dementia care partners, and hours of care provided in Saskatchewan:
- 2020: 10,200 (12.3million hours/year)
- 2050: 24,800 (29.9 million hours/year)
The Landmark Study also used the simulation model to examine what the impact that delaying the onset of dementia would have on the incidence and prevalence rates in Saskatchewan. Below are some of the highlights:
- Current trends indicate an increase of 24,800 cases of dementia in Saskatchewan by 2050. This is a 142% increase from 2020 estimates of dementia in the province.
- Based on the model estimates, a 1-year delay in the onset of dementia in individuals would prevent approximately 10,700 new cases of dementia occurring by 2050 in Saskatchewan.
A 10-year delay of onset for dementia would result in 2050 SASK dementia prevalence (58,000) being slightly higher than the 2020 estimate, effectively flattening the curve.
Through the efforts we can take today, this 10-year delay in onset would lead to Saskatchewan avoiding 88,500 cases of dementia by 2050.