Minimizing the risks of getting dementia
March 04, 2020 | Farah Jassawalla

Minimizing the risks of getting dementia

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Dementia is a term used for a set of conditions and diseases distinguished by a decrease in memory, problem-solving, language, and general thinking skills – deterioration of brain health. Alzheimer's is the primary form of dementia, with the distinctive feature being memory loss. Dementia is most common among older individuals, with nearly half of people aged between 50 and 64 being at risk of developing dementia, and it is estimated that about 50 million people globally have dementia. Nearly 10 million people develop dementia, and almost 2 million die due to dementia every year; thus, it is crucial for people to be aware of ways to reduce the risks of developing dementia.

The following factors affect the likelihood of developing dementia:


A diet filled with excessive sugar, salt, saturated fat, and a lack of fiber can raise the risk of high blood pressure, obesity, high cholesterol, and type 2 diabetes – all of which are known to lead to dementia.

Eating a healthy and well-balanced diet is critical in preventing these complications and improving brain health. Most experts recommend a Mediterranean diet, a diet that relies on vegetables, fish, fruits, nuts, coffee, and olive oil, and is low in saturated fats as well as high in omega-3 acids and antioxidants, which reduces brain inflammation and improves blood vessel flow to the brain. Experts recommend such a diet since it significantly lowers the risk of dementia and other brain complications, including cognitive impairment.

Weight and exercise

Being obese or overweight is linked with an increased risk of high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes, both of which raise the likelihood of developing vascular dementia and Alzheimer’s.

As a result, controlling your weight by exercising regularly is imperative in averting the risks of dementia. In fact, in 2016, a dementia study was performed, which showed that people who exercise regularly are notably less likely to develop dementia. Many people ask how much exercise should be performed, and experts recommend that 2 and a half hours of exercise every week is enough to stay healthy physically and mentally. Experts advise that any form of exercise, whether it be cycling, jogging, walking, or swimming, is good, and that exercise should be performed consistently.


Smoking is known to cause arteries to narrow, which can elevate blood pressure and raise the risks of heart diseases as well as cancer. These diseases, combined with the adverse impact of smoking on the body, inevitably lead to dementia; hence smoking should be avoided. Smoking for people aged above 65 is even more harmful as it immensely increases the risk of dementia, and even the World Health Organization has issued a warning to older people advising them not to smoke tobacco.

To put an end to smoking, quitting cold turkey has been claimed to be a highly efficient technique. However, if that is difficult, you can make yourself busy with other activities that help release stress, such as playing games or exercising. Alternatively, you can chew gum, try to increase your water intake or join a stop-smoking or self-help group.

Mental health diseases and depression

Researchers have discovered that having mental health diseases – primarily depression – can lead to dementia, especially if the mental health disease is left untreated. As a matter of fact, depression and dementia share many of the same symptoms, and researchers predict the reason for this is that anxiety and low mood caused by depression impacts a person's capability to partake in mental activities. This leads to a deterioration of brain functions and health since the brain is no longer being simulated the way it should be.

There are several methods of dealing with depression:

·       Visiting a counselor, therapist or psychiatrist to perform cognitive behavioral therapy

·       Socialising and talking more with friends and family

·       Joining a support group to discuss your problems

·       Healthy activities that make you feel good or better

·       Being more grateful

·       Exercising, eating and sleeping properly

·       Spending more time outside in the sunlight

Considering everything, dementia is a significant health issue nowadays, especially among older people, consequently, factors causing it should be minimized. It would help if you tried to eat healthily, sleep well, exercise properly, and avoid smoking to stay mentally and physically healthy to prevent dementia. However, if you begin to feel your brain health and functions deteriorate, you should visit a doctor. If you are aged above 50, you should get regular yearly health checks to ensure you get diagnosed early with dementia.

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Farah Jassawalla

Farah Jassawalla is a graduate of the Lahore School of Economics. She is also a writer, and healthcare enthusiast, having closely observed case studies while working with Lahore's thriving general physicians at their clinics.