Dementia prevention update January 2024
Here’s a roundup of the latest research and ideas around how to prevent, or at least delay, the onset of dementia.
Biological age rather than actual age could be an indicator of risk of dementia and stroke. Biological markers include blood pressure, blood glucose, cholesterol levels, inflammation markets, waist circumference and lung capacity. The hope is that lifestyle interventions such as exercise, sleep, diet and nutritional supplements could slow down or even reverse biological age.
Just 4,000 steps a day may be enough to prevent Alzheimer’s disease. That’s a lot more manageable than the often quoted 10,000 steps. In a study, scientists examined the brains of over 10,000 individuals using MRI scans. They found that those who exercised regularly had more pronounced grey matter, which is vital for processing information, as well as white matter, which connects various brain regions. Additionally, the hippocampus, which is a key area for memory, was also more prominent in individuals who exercised.
Eating better could help to reduce the risk of dementia. Ultra-processed foods are already linked to cancer, diabetes and heart disease. Now a growing number of studies are also linking them to poor brain health, including that increased risk of dementia, depression and anxiety. Ultra-processed foods include favourites such as sodas, ice cream, breakfast cereal, and pre-packaged meals.
Sleep as well as you can. Losing any measure of deep sleep can increase dementia risk. Slow-wave sleep, or deep sleep, supports the ageing brain in many ways, including the clearance of metabolic waste, such as proteins that aggregate in Alzheimer’s disease.
Loneliness and pets
For those who live alone, owning a pet may be a good way to prevent dementia. Previous research has suggested that older adults living alone are at greater risk of developing dementia. Pet ownership can offset the associations between living alone and declining rates in verbal memory and verbal fluency, says recent research.
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