Reducing Dementia Risk: New Studies Offer Hope

According to Alzheimer’s Disease International, 152 million people are expected to have a diagnosis of dementia by 2050. While there’s currently no treatment to slow the progression of this debilitating condition, a recent report in The Wall Street Journal offers hope. Through a review of recent research studies, the Journal notes that there are things we can do to reduce our risk, and even better, it’s never too late to start.

“…There is increasing evidence that people—even those who inherit genes that put them at greater risk of developing Alzheimer’s in later life—can improve their chances by adopting lifestyle changes,” the article said.

Just what lifestyle changes are needed, and how hard are they to accomplish? Spotlighted here are steps you can take, according to the studies, along with our own insights:

  1. Keep your blood pressure under control—Recent research has linked cardiovascular health with brain health. At the Friends of Nathaniel Witherell’s fall luncheon, speaker Jane Brody brought this to light, too, noting, “What keeps your heart healthy also keeps your brain healthy.”
  2. Exercise as much as possible. —Exercise increases the flow of blood to the brain, and helps improve the brain’s cognitive function.
  3. Stay engagedThe Wall Street Journal cited a recent study that found that “people who engaged in more than six activities a month—including hobbies, reading, visiting friends, walking, volunteering, and attending religious services—had a 38% lower rate of developing dementia than those who did fewer activities.”
  4. Watch Your Diet—While the Mediterranean diet has been the Holy Grail for brain health, now researchers have identified a hybrid that might be even better—the Mind Diet. The Mind Diet is similar to the Mediterranean diet. It limits the amount of red meat, butter, cheese, sweets, and fried and fast foods you eat, and calls for whole grains, fish, poultry, nuts, berries, beans and green, leafy vegetables. The Mind Diet also prescribes even more brain boosting foods, like berries and leafy green vegetables.
  5. Get Some Sleep!—Poor sleep has long been thought to be a risk factor for developing dementia or Alzheimer’s. The reason? Researchers note that sleep may “wash away toxic substances out of our brains that shouldn’t be there.”

One thing the experts agree on: the more lifestyle changes we adopt in combination, the more likely we’ll reduce our risk.

We at the Witherell believe that social engagement is also critical in preventing mental decline. Seniors living in isolation often face conditions like high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity, a weakened immune system, anxiety, depression, and cognitive decline, according to the National Institute on Aging.

“At the Witherell, our therapeutic recreation team keeps our residents active and involved in programs that are educational, stimulating, and joyful,” notes Allen Brown, executive director of the Nathaniel Witherell. “Music, art, pet therapy, social outings, lectures, celebrations—these activities give structure and meaning to our residents’ lives, while also playing an important role in promoting health and well-being.”

For more information on skilled nursing and expert Memory Care at the Witherell, call (203) 618-4200.


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