Take Action on Dementia with Dementia Action Week 2019
What does dementia mean to you? Something scary that happens when you get older? Something you don’t even think about, as it’s something that might happen years down the line? The very real stress and upset of having the onset of dementia or caring for a loved one with the condition?
Whatever dementia means to you, it’s something that’s on the radar for so many of us, either because we’re worried about it or because we’re dealing with it in ourselves or in someone close.
Dementia Action Week, supported by the charity The Alzheimer’s Society aims to “unite people, workplaces, schools and communities to take action and improve the lives of people living with dementia.
Having a form of dementia (Alzheimer’s is just one form of the disease) often means feeling alone and isolated from your community. It’s frightening, not knowing how it’s going to progress and worrying, not knowing if you’re going to struggle day to day doing the things that used to come so easily.
But with the increased awareness of dementia around Dementia Action Week, the aim is for people living with the condition, to lead as normal a life as possible.
But is there anything we can do to help prevent or delay the onset of Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia?
Helping to Prevent Alzheimer’s Disease
Scientists and doctors don’t fully understand why dementia develops. Research is extensive, and there is currently no fail-safe way to completely protect yourself from the disease.
But living a healthy life can help reduce your risk that you’ll go on to develop dementia in your later years.
Diet, Weight and Exercise
Eating a healthy diet and taking regular exercise to help maintain a healthy weight are among the best things you can do to not only help prevent dementia, but heart disease and type 2 diabetes too.
Being very overweight or obese or having high blood pressure and cholesterol are risk factors for heart disease and type 2 diabetes, which are both in turn linked to a higher risk of dementia.
Aim to eat a diet rich in wholegrains, fibre, fruits and vegetables and keep red meat, saturated fat, salt and sugar to a minimum. The NHS Eatwell Guide is really helpful for healthy meal planning.
The NHS also recommends 150 minutes of moderate intensity exercise per week, plus two sessions of strengthening exercises.
Alcohol and Smoking
Drinking excessive amounts of alcohol and/or smoking, can cause damage to your arteries, heart and brain.
Stick to 14 or fewer units of alcohol a week and have several drink-free days a week. If you smoke, seriously consider giving up. The NHS Smokefree website has plenty of help and support.
Feeling blue, having a low mood, depression or anxiety appear to be linked with dementia. Mental health is a complex subject and if you’re suffering, needs to be talked through with your GP.
But staying socially active and taking part in activities that you love can help lift a low mood and keep your brain alert.
Keeping Your Brain Active
Anything you can do to keep your brain active will help reduce your risk of dementia. Even if you haven’t yet retired, it’s still worth giving your brain a daily workout.
Try crosswords and sudoku puzzles, and search in your app store for brain training games.
Omega 3 Essential Fatty Acids
Omega 3 is a nutrient essential for heart and brain health. You can get omega 3 from oily fish such as sardines, walnuts and flaxseeds. Or you can take a daily omega 3 supplement.
Another supplement that helps support brain health is curcumin, the active ingredient of turmeric. Dementia is linked to inflammation in the brain, so keeping inflammation to a minimum with an anti-inflammatory like curcumin can help reduce your risk.
Dementia Action Week 2019 runs from 20th to 26th May. Download an action week guide for more information on how you can get involved.