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Dementia Awareness: Ways in Reducing Risk of Dementia

In a world where technology and innovation are continuously and quickly evolving, it is rather sad to admit that we are yet to discover a cure for the degenerative neurological disease that is Dementia. Could it really be prevented?

While medical research is not yet conclusive, studies show that we can minimize the chances of acquiring dementia and as often said, "Prevention is better than cure".

The lifestyle choices we make greatly affects our journey in reaching optimal health. Statistics shows an increase in the prevalence rate (number of people in a population who have a disease at a given time) of people with dementia. In Australia alone, it is said that one person is diagnosed with the disease in every six minutes.

So when do we start our fight against having dementia? I would say as early as possible, especially if the disease runs in your genetic pool.

How? Here are the basic and most important aspects to cover to scale down dementia:

Increase physical activity. As with other medical conditions, regular exercise is not only beneficial in lowering the risk, it also dwindles the deterioration of cognitive problems to those who have already started to show signs and symptoms of early onset dementia. Whenever we exercise, blood flowing to the brain increases, resulting in better perfusion of brain cells.

To achieve the maximum effect of exercise in the brain, a person may do a combination of minimal to moderate weight and resistance training. This is beneficial not only in gaining muscle mass but for the maintenance of brain health as well. Furthermore, doing balance and coordination exercises that include Pilates, yoga, and Tai Chi helps to improve the agility and flexibility of a person, thus reducing incidents of falls.

If you're starting on your exercise regimen, always take into consideration your safety and ability to do a certain physical activity. Best to work together with a professional health trainer, to assist and work out an appropriate exercise regimen for you. If you have limited resources, you can also jump-start your physical activity by incorporating it in your daily house chores like tending your garden, taking a leisurely walk around your neighborhood, walking your dog in the park, flexing or stretching your legs while watching television, or take the stairs whenever possible.

Healthy and balanced diet. Indulging a diet that is healthy for the heart is also healthy for the brain. A diet consisting of low cholesterol and sugar cuts down inflammation and promote average energy production. Research states that eating a Mediterranean diet reduces cognitive impairment and inhibits progression of Alzheimer's disease. This diet consists of eating mostly vegetables, fish, whole grains, beans, and limited intake of meat and dairy products.

Toxins found in the brain might contribute to the development of Dementia, and antioxidants protect the brain by eliminating these toxins out of the body. Antioxidants (a molecule that prevents cell damage) found in fruits and vegetables, like blueberries, ginger, soy products, grapes, nuts, broccoli, spinach, kale, and sweet potatoes are highly encouraged. Drinking green tea enhances mental alertness and also acts as a memory enhancer. Coffee has the same benefits, though deemed not as powerful as tea.

Fish is considered as one of the superfoods rich in antioxidants. It is packed with omega-3 fatty acids that lower inflammation and vitamin D. The recommended dietary intake for fresh fish should be two to three times a week.

Mental exercise. The greater you challenge your brain, the less likely it is for you to acquire dementia. Our brain is just like the muscles in our body. The longer we don't use them, the faster they deteriorate and muscles tend to atrophy, or waste away. The earlier we start training our brain, the better. We can start sharpening our mind through answering Sudoku, word and crossword puzzles, Scrabble, card games or board games.

Learn a new language or hobby, like knitting, sewing or painting. Do random memorizations on famous tourist landmarks and its country, national flags, or lyrics to your favorite song. Find a good novel to read, be informed of the current events or learn how to use a gadget. Basically, anything that challenges a brain is a good form of mental exercise.

Sleep. Lack or difficulty sleeping is said to be one symptom of Alzheimer's. However, a recent study shows that agitated sleep might be a possible risk factor in developing

Dementia. It is a common knowledge that adults need an average 8 hours of quality sleep every day. Less than that could affect creativity and productivity.

Our brain follows regularity. Set a schedule for sleeping. Train yourself to have a sleep ritual. Indulge in a hot bath or shower, dim the lights, set the thermostat, remove any distractions like television and gadgets. If these doesn't help, get out of the bedroom and read, or relax, do some light stretching.

If you know you have difficulty sleeping, be conscious about taking a nap. Limit it to at least 30 to 45 minutes. Do not nap in the late afternoon, as it will disrupt your restorative sleeping pattern or the time when your brain takes a rest and regeneration of brain cells occurs. So try to make sure you are getting enough zzz.

Social contact. More than two-thirds of people with dementia are withdrawn and suffers social isolation. As family member or carer, it is our responsibility to let them know that we are here to support them. On a parallel level, patients with dementia are encouraged to participate in social activities, to slow down the disease progression and establish a social connection. Studies have found that staying socially active and connected may protect our brains from developing dementia by boosting our memory and cognitive behaviors.

Not everyone is gifted in socializing, and we don't need to be a social butterfly. Keep in mind that socializing should be qualitative, not quantitative. The main objective here is to expand your network of friends, have a good time and keep a healthy mind.

All these information is set to raise dementia awareness. In conclusion, age and genetics are not part of the modifiable risk factors of dementia, these are out of our control. However, identifying what makes us susceptible to the disease gives us a chance to start early prevention, reducing risks or even slow down its progression. After all, knowledge is an important role in our fight against dementia.



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