The inhibition of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease in the aging has become a hot topic in the scientific community. Recent studies measuring lifestyle factors or the effects of pharmaceutical treatments have found many connections between lifestyle and cognitive health in aging populations. It is increasingly suggested that nutrition, exercise, and activity (physical and mental) may reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia in aging populations. CBS News has recently covered the increased attention the scientific community is dedicating to cognition in old age.
Since lifespans are rising, there are naturally more elderly people than before. Unfortunately, this also means that diseases without cures or treatments are also on the rise. One recent study suggested 13.9% of individuals 71 years and older suffer from some form of dementia. As we age, how do we avoid cognitive decline?
While the scientific community has yet to uncover a cure for dementia, it has identified a number of contributing lifestyle factors that seem to help people avoid demetia-related diseases:
- Avoidable pitfalls…avoid them! These include smoking, hypertension, high homocysteine levels, type 2 diabetes, insulin resistance, hypercholesterolemia, and obesity.
- Live well. Higher education, physical exercise, and mental exercise are well established as important pro-cognitive attributes and behaviors.
- Eat even better. Dietary measures, such as high intake of fish, fruit and vegetables suggest a positive role for omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidants, and B group vitamins such as B6, and B12.
- Drink tea. Studies suggest tea intake may protect against cognitive decline in the elderly.
- Exercise every day. Even 15 minutes per day will greatly benefit the individual. Physical exercise may reduce the risk of dementia, and markedly improves lifespan.
- Stimulate the mind. Those who keep active in non-physical ways, whether socializing, playing board games, or attending book clubs, are practicing habits associated with longer life. Studies suggest that persons who are mentally active are at a lower risk of cognitive decline and dementia in old age.
- Have a drink!? But not three. In a landmark study of thousands of members of a retirement community in California, it was surprisingly found that those who drank up to two drinks per day had a 10-15 percent reduced risk of death compared to non-drinkers.
- Don’t sweat a few extra pounds. Being obese at any age is unhealthy. However older people who are moderately overweight or average weight live longer than people who are underweight.
The growing field of Alzheimer’s and Dementia related research believes that within five years, dramatic developments may change the way doctors protect cognition in the elderly and prevent decline in already impaired persons. While we wait for that day, we should prepare ourselves by adjusting to a lifestyle that promotes health and wellness – plenty of fish, fruits and vegetables, exercise and mental stimulation.