Dementia 101: How To Protect Yourself and Keep Your Memories Safe As You Age

Dementia can be difficult to live with. Kavita Devgan brings you 11 things you can do to lower your risk of it.

4 min read
Dementia 101: How To Protect Yourself and Keep Your Memories Safe As You Age

Dementia is an extremely debilitating disorder and its numbers are huge globally.

According to World Health Organization the number of people living with dementia worldwide is currently estimated to be around 55 million people.

This number is expected to rise to 78 million in 2030 and 139 million by 2050.

According to The Global Burden of Disease Study estimates in 2016, 3.74 million people in South Asia had dementia, including 2.93 million people from India, which is low as compared to other countries, but increasing lifespan is expected to lead to a dramatic rise in the coming decades.

In addition Indians have a very high burden of vascular risk factors, such as diabetes, hypertension and obesity, which too can adversely impact the onset and progression of dementia.

What Is Dementia?

To diagnose dementia, doctors first assess whether a person has an underlying, potentially treatable, condition that may relate to cognitive difficulties.

(Photo: iStock)

Dementia is dreaded because there is no cure available yet for this chronic disorder that impacts personal, family, and social life extensively, and reduces the life span too.

Begin Prevention Now

Although dementia is diagnosed in later life, mostly in sixties, the brain changes associated with this disease usually begin to develop years before, sometimes as early as in thirties, so acting now can help keep the disease away.

Here are the 11 things you can do to lower your risk of dementia starting today:

Keep Weight In Check

Both being overweight as well as underweight is linked to higher risk of dementia. Those with a body mass index (BMI) greater than 30, classified as obese, or those who are clinically overweight, are more likely to develop dementia.

Being underweight doesn't help either as then too the risk goes up. Staying at a healthy weight BMI between 20 to 25 is the answer.

Turmeric is considered a magical spice because of its many benefits. 

(Photo: iStock)

Colour Me Yellow

In India the incidence of dementia has traditionally been low thanks to the kind of diet loaded with protective spices like turmeric that we were eating, but that seems to be changing now due to the onslaught of processed foods.

We need to go back to eating a traditional diet and bring back more turmeric in our daily diet.

Go Green

Eating more spinach can help lower our homocysteine levels by increasing the amount of folate (b vitamin) we get in our diet. High homocysteine levels are linked to increased heart disease risk.

In fact, lower levels of homocysteine have been linked to reducing the risk of heart disease and dementia.

Get More Omega-3 Fatty Acids

People with higher levels of omega-3 DHA in their blood are less likely to develop dementia than those with lower levels. Incorporating additional omega-3 DHA (seafood and algae) to the diet can definitely help.

Not Read Meat, But Red Vegetables 

Beets are a good source of fiber, which benefits your digestive health and reduces the risk of several chronic health conditions.

(Photo: iStock)

Beets deliver betaine (also used in some depression medications), and tryptophan, both of which help us destress, feel happier and keep depression at bay.

Betaine also helps trigger the detoxification and cleansing of our body and fight dementia by increasing blood flow to the brain.

Get The Choline Advantage

Cauliflower delivers one of the rarer nutrients found in foods – choline, a nutrient our body needs for our brain and nervous system to function properly.

Choline delivers another bonus - it helps prevent cholesterol from accumulating in the liver and thus reduces the risk of liver, heart disease, and dementia too.

Other good sources of choline are egg yolks and red meat.


Keep Diabetes Away

A disease like dementia can be very difficult for the patient's spouse, as well as family. 

(Photo: iStock)

Diabetes can increase the risk of developing dementia by damaging small blood vessels in the brain. This could lead to reduced blood flow to the brain, increasing dementia risk.

Exercise Regularly

Regular physical exercise not only enhances fitness but also has a positive impact on brain metabolism too. Physical exercise can thus help protect brain cells.

Don’t Smoke

Everyone knows that smoking wreaks havoc on the lungs and heart. But cigarettes also raise your risk for developing dementia. That's because smoking elevates blood pressure and cholesterol, two risk factors for dementia, and promotes clotting while decreasing the oxygen capacity of your blood vessels.

Tobacco smoke damages arteries, which interferes with the free flow of blood to the brain. Depriving neurons, or brain cells, of the oxygen and nutrients in blood can cause them to die and lead to vascular dementia.

Cigarettes have innumerable disadvantages and can be extremely harmful for our bodies.

(Photos: iStock)

Smoking also triggers a phenomenon known as oxidative stress, which harms the DNA in cells throughout the body, including the brain.

Don't Drink Too Much Alcohol 

Alcohol-related dementia (ARD) is a form of dementia caused by long-term, excessive consumption of alcoholic beverages, resulting in neurological damage and impaired cognitive function.

Keep Your Blood Pressure In Check

High blood pressure, a known risk factor for heart disease causes problems by damaging and narrowing the blood vessels in the brain too and thus may up the risk for dementia.

(Kavita Devgan is a nutritionist, weight management consultant, and health writer based in Delhi. She is the author of The Don't Diet Plan: A no-nonsense guide to weight loss, Fix it with Food, Ultimate Grandmother Hacks, and Don’t Diet! 50 Habits of Thin People.)

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