Award-winning cognitive health clinic Re:Cognition Health is passionate about changing the future of dementia, the only cause of death in the UK that is still on the rise...
Re:Cognition Health’s esteemed clinicians offer their tops tips to help safeguard against developing dementia and brain diseases. There is currently no cure for dementia, however by incorporating these simple lifestyle tweaks into your daily routine, you will improve your brain function as well as protect it in later years.
What is good for the heart is good for the brain
Taking gastronomic inspiration from our Mediterranean friends is a great way to keep your brain and body healthy. The fresher your diet, the healthier you (and your brain) will be. Pack your plate full of antioxidant rich fresh fruit and vegetables, pulses, grains, seeds and try to eat two meals containing oily fish such as salmon or mackerel each week. Limit the amount of processed foods, sugar, preservatives and fats in your diet. It’s also important to limit the amount of saturated fats in the diet (hard cheese, ice cream, sausages, lard and burgers). ‘Studies show that these “bad” fats increase cholesterol levels and those with high cholesterol appear to be at greater risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.’ Says Dr Emer MacSweeney, CEO & Medical Director of Re:Cognition Health.
Excess wine is not fine
Stick to the recommended guidelines when drinking alcohol. Studies have indicated that people who regularly drink heavily or binge drink were more likely to develop dementia than those who drank within the recommended guidelines. Alcohol damages brain, causes brain shrinkage and interferes with the way the vitamin Thiamine is absorbed into the body, which is essential for providing energy to the body (and the brain uses A LOT of energy). ‘Excessive alcohol consumption can also lead to weight gain and keeping a healthy body weight will help to alleviate your risk of developing vascular dementia, as risk factors for this include being overweight,’ adds Dr MacSweeney.
SLEEP AND RELAXATION
Sleep helps our brains clear away toxins, plaques and proteins that build up throughout the day, helping to protect against diseases such as Alzheimer’s. Sleep also helps us to remember new things we have learnt, improves concentration, mood and metabolism, so it is vital we bank between 6-8 hours sleep each day.
• A good mattress and pillow
• Dark, quiet room
• Temperature slightly cool
• Read to unwind before bed
• Don’t eat too late
• Limit alcohol of an evening
• Keep technology out of the bedroom
Meditation is a great way to unwind, relax and clear the brain, helping to alleviate life stresses.
Meditation reduces the level of the stress hormone Cortisol, which is understood to increase the risk of dementia. A daily 15 minute dose of mindful meditation, yoga, tai chi or simply switching your mind off when exercising or commuting may help slow down the progression of Alzheimer’s disease.
Work / Life Balance
Ensure you take time to enjoy hobbies and spend quality time with friends and family. All work and no play increases your stress levels, which compromises brain function. ‘In a recent survey YouGov survey, only 25% of the public thought that a healthy lifestyle can reduce dementia risk, but adopting a balanced diet, exercising and having a good work/life balance with regular social interaction can reduce risk,’ says Dr MacSweeney.
LEARN A SECOND LANGUAGE:
Speaking a second language requires a specific type of brain training which both enables the individual to learn the language as well as alternate between the two. Research previously published in Neurology today showed that being bilingual may delay the onset of dementia by around four and a half years. ‘Speaking two languages may lead to better development of the part of the brain that handles executive functions’ says Dr MacSweeney.
EXERCISE THE MIND AND BODY
Being physically active can protect against many diseases, keeping the heart, muscles and bones in optimum health, and the brain is no exception. Exercising regularly is one of the best things you can do to help protect yourself against developing dementia. Exercising for 45 minutes, 4 times per week will improve your physical and mental wellbeing. ‘Leading a sedentary lifestyle may have a negative affect on brain health,’ says Dr MacSweeney. ‘Poor fitness levels can lead to an increased risk of the expression of genetic biomarkers for Alzheimer’s disease.’
It won’t be such a chore if you choose sports and activities that you enjoy and it’s a great way to be social as well as switching off, so you can also incorporate your daily dose of meditation.
There are lots of physical activities you can do to work the brain:
• Dancing – fun and social. Routines are great for brain training.
• Table tennis – stimulates hand, eye coordination and improves motor skills
• Swimming – relaxing, low impact, good cardiovascular properties
• Walking – enjoy the fresh air and exploring new routes and paths – both great for the mind and body
As well as your body it’s important to keep your mind active too in order to maintain good cognitive function in later years. Sudoku, crosswords, puzzles, jigsaws and memory games are great exercises for the mind, after all – if you don’t use it, you’ll lose it. ‘Keeping your mind active is a good way to improve your brain health,’ adds Dr MacSweeney.
Smokers have a 45% higher risk of developing vascular dementia and Alzheimer’s disease compared to non-smokers. Smoking increases the risk of developing diabetes, cardiovascular disease and stroke, which are all risk factors for vascular dementia. Smoking narrows the blood vessels leading to the heart and brain, which can deprive the brain of oxygen and the toxic chemicals within cigarettes increase the risk of stroke and cognitive impairment. It can also interfere with the effectiveness of medication, so it’s time to stop!
Keep your body weight, blood pressure and cholesterol in check with annual visits to the GP as all of these factors increase the risk of vascular dementia as well as many other potentially fatal diseases. If you have any health concerns, it’s important to speak to a health professional as soon as symptoms arise in order to get an accurate diagnosis and begin treatment. ‘Being overweight and having high blood pressure and high cholesterol are risk factors for vascular dementia, so it’s important to stay at a healthy body weight and keep an eye on your blood pressure,’ says Dr MacSweeney.
To find out more visit www.re-cognitionhealth.com
Facts about dementia
• Dementia is an umbrella term used to describe problems with memory, language and learning new skills
• There are 850,000 people in the UK with some form of dementia
• Alzheimer’s disease is one of the most common causes of dementia
• Two thirds of people with dementia are women
• 42,000 people under the age of 65 have dementia (young-onset dementia)