Dementia is estimated to affect around 850,000 people in the UK.
Symptoms can start suddenly or come on slowly over time but include memory loss, difficulty concentrating and being confused about time and place.
There’s no certain way to prevent dementia, and there’s currently no cure, but experts believe there are ways the disease can be prevented.
What’s good for your heart is also good for your brain, and with this in mind, the NHS suggests six ways to help reduce your risk of dementia.
- Eating a healthy, balanced diet
- Maintaining a healthy weight
- Exercising regularly
- Keeping alcohol to a minimum
- Stopping smoking
- Keeping blood pressure at a healthy level
Alzheimer’s Society recommends giving your brain a daily workout by learning another language.
It states: “This could be reading, doing puzzles, word searches or crosswords, playing cards or learning something new – maybe another language.
“If you can keep your mind active you are likely to reduce your risk of dementia. There is a bit less evidence, but keeping socially engaged and having a good social network may also reduce your dementia risk.
“Visit people or have them visit you, join a club or volunteer.”
The research charity also recommends a number of other things you can do to reduce your risk of developing the neurodegenerative disease.
Keep physically active
At least 30 minutes, five times a week is the recommended.
Alzheimer’s Society says: “You’ll need to be active enough to raise your heart rate and get a bit out of breath. You could walk, cycle, swim or join an exercise or dance group. Regular physical exercise in middle-aged or older adults reduces the risk of developing dementia. It’s also good for your heart and mental wellbeing. Exercise like this brings health benefits even if you’re not losing weight.”
If you already do this, try and stop.
Alzheimer’s Society says: “By smoking you are at a greater risk of developing dementia and harming your lungs, heart and circulation. If you want to stop smoking, talk to your GP.”
Eat a healthy balanced diet
A balanced diet has a number of health benefits including reducing your risk of dementia and heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes.
Alzheimer’s Society says: “A healthy diet has a high proportion of oily fish, fruit, vegetables, unrefined cereals and olive oil, and low levels of red meat and sugar.
“Try to cut down on saturated fat (e.g cakes, biscuits, most cheeses) and limit sugary treats. Keep an eye on your salt intake too, because salt raises your blood pressure and risk of stroke. Read food labels to see what’s in them and seek out healthier options.”
Keep your alcohol within recommended limits
The maximum is 14 unites each week for men and women, spread over three or more days. This is the equivalent of four or five large glasses of wine, or seven pits of beer or lager with a lower alcohol content.
Alzheimer’s Society says: “Regularly exceeding these weekly limits increases your dementia risk. If you find yourself struggling to cut down what you drink, talk to your GP about what support is available.”
Take control of your health
If you’re invited for a regular mid-life health check at the doctor’s always go.
Alzheimer’s Society says: “It’s like an ‘MOT’ for your body and will include a check of your blood pressure, weight and maybe cholesterol level. These are linked to dementia and conditions that are strong risk factors for dementia (heart disease, stroke and diabetes).”
Keep to a healthy weight
Alzheimer’s Society says: “This will reduce your risk of type 2 diabetes, stroke and heart disease – and hence probably of dementia.”
Cutting down on how much we drink could slash the risk of dementia by a third, according to recent research.