OCBC Silver Years

Reduce Your Risk of Developing Dementia

Dementia is an illness that affects the brain and leads to a decline in the brain's ability to work properly, affecting memory, judgement, language, planning and behaviour. However, studies have shown that a healthy lifestyle can reduce the risk of developing some types of dementia

Dementia is an illness more common among older adults especially those above 65 years old.

There are various types of dementia, of which the two most common types are Alzheimer's Disease and Vascular Dementia. What causes Alzheimer's Disease remains a mystery although genes are thought to play a role. Vascular Dementia is caused by small strokes that affect blood circulation to the brain and is preventable by reducing cardiovascular risk factors.

Presently, there is no cure for dementia. However, studies have shown that a healthy lifestyle can reduce the risk of developing some types of dementia.

Eating Habits and Dementia

Certain types of food and vitamin supplements may reduce the risk of dementia.

  1. Choose your food wisely. Fruit and vegetables nourish the brain. Cocoa contains flavanols which help improve blood flow in certain areas of the brain. Fish, sunflower oil, soybean oil, cereals and vegetables are rich in vitamin E, omega -3 fatty acids, folic acid and Vitamin B12. These nutrients have been shown to reduce the risk of dementia by protecting brain tissues.
  2. Ask about vitamin supplements. Vitamins C and E keep brain cells alive. When taken in combination, they have been shown to improve concentration and memory in older women with dementia. Studies have shown that taking high doses of vitamin E can delay progression of dementia by several months. However, do inform your doctor if you plan to take any vitamin supplements. Supplements have side-effects and may affect how your other medications act in your body. (Note that the information provided here is not medical advice.)

Life Activities and Dementia

Staying fit and spending quality time with family and friends can benefit your health and wellbeing. Keeping your mind and body active is one way to reduce your risk of dementia.

  1. ​Start moving. Physical activity is good for the body. It increases blood flow to the brain, keeping it healthy. Introduce variety in your exercise programme. Take a walk in the park about three times a week. Start walking short distances and gradually increase your pace. Stretch your arms and legs whenever you can at home.
  2. Keep thinking and planning. A study done by the National University of Singapore showed that productive activities such as preparing meals and even shopping can lower the risk of dementia.
  3. Play more. Stimulate your mind by reading. Visit the library to borrow books and magazines. Keep your mind busy by playing a game of cards, board games or Sudoku during your spare time.
  4. Learn a new skill. If you have never played a musical instrument before, it's time you start playing. You could also learn new dance steps or a foreign language during weekends. The People's Association has various interest groups such as line dancing or badminton that you can take part in. Visit www.pa.gov.sg for more information.
  5. Be adventurous. Are you tired of preparing the same meals again and again? Try a new recipe and share cooking secrets with your friends. Visiting a newly opened food courts and eateries with family and friends can be enjoyable too.
  6. Build and nurture relationships. It's never too late to start building genuine friendships. Be friendly by smiling and saying "Hello" to people you meet in the neighbourhood. Join tai chi sessions during weekends. Play with your grandchildren and spend time teaching them what you love to do. It may be an afternoon of painting and cooking or simply chatting over a cup of tea.

Paying Attention to Your Health Reduces Risk of Dementia

A strong and healthy heart provides adequate blood flow to your brain. This keeps the brain well-nourished and healthy.

  1. ​​Keep your blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol levels within the acceptable range. If you are taking medications, do it dutifully and seek early treatment to avoid any complications that may result from these conditions.
  2. Keep your ideal weight. Maintaining a normal Body Mass Index (BMI) can help control blood pressure and cholesterol levels.
  3. Quit smoking. Smoking is associated with heart disease and may increase the risk of dementia.

Source: Health Promotion Board © HealthHub. Reproduced with permission. View original source.

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