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Dementia – six diet and lifestyle changes to lower Alzheimer's disease risk at home

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Dementia affects about 850,000 people in the UK, according to the NHS.

It’s the name given to a group of symptoms linked to an ongoing decline in brain function.

Common dementia symptoms include memory loss, difficulty concentrating and mood changes.

But, you could lower your risk of dementia – including Alzheimer’s disease – by making these six lifestyle swaps.

Boost nutrition

Certain foods could help to lower your risk of dementia, according to Cytoplan’s nutritional therapist, Clare Daley.

Eat more foods that are low in sugar, but moderate in starchy carbohydrates, including sweet potato, carrots and leafy greens.

Be sure to eat plenty of vegetables, and foods that contain healthy fats, including avocados and nuts.

“Nutrition is essential for cognitive health,” said Daley. “Eating foods that are low in sugar can prevent the development of insulin resistance.

“The brain is very susceptible to damage by ‘free radicals’ and antioxidants provide protection from these.”

Improve gut health

Having bad gut health causes inflammation, which is one of the many chronic health conditions linked to cognitive decline, said the nutritional therapist.

Improve your gut health by eating more green leafy vegetables, chicory, apples, olive oil, and dark chocolate).

“To improve gut health, remove specific foods from your diet that may trigger gut symptoms,” she said.

“Add in nutrients and fibre to support gut health.”

Get rid of stress

Feeling persistently stressed can actually kill brain cells, and increase the risk of cognitive decline.

Some stress-relieving exercises could help you to feel more relaxed when at work or at home.

“In order to effectively manage stress, it is important to focus on stress reduction activities that work for you.

“These could include yoga, meditation, mindfulness, massage, breathing techniques, gardening, reading, listening to music or keeping a happiness and gratitude journal.

“When we learn to effectively manage our stress, we see an improvement in our sleep, energy, patience, resilience, focus and memory.”

Sleep well

The health of your brain relies on getting a good night’s sleep, warned Daley.

“Sleep is vital for optimal brain health as during sleep our brain cells detoxify and cleanse,” she said.

“Melatonin is the hormone responsible for restful sleep, however as we age we produce less, and therefore older individuals often experience more trouble sleeping.

“Whilst eight hours of uninterrupted sleep is possibly a dream for many of us, it’s important to find sleep strategies that work for you.”

Try sticking to a regular bedtime routine to boost your chances of falling asleep faster. Eating well, regular exercise and avoiding bright digital screens could also help you get a good night’s sleep.

Do regular exercise

Exercise is crucial to lowering the risk of developing dementia, said Daley.

Keeping active increases blood flow to the brain, which boosts the amount of oxygen it receives.

“Aerobic exercise protects the brain from damage and stimulates the production of new brain cells responsible for memory and emotions. These cells commonly become damaged due to age and disease,” she said.

“Exercise increases blood flow to the brain and thus the delivery of oxygen and nutrients that are essential for brain function including concentration.”

Brain training

“Challenging and stretching the brain allows new connections to be created and maintained.

“Activities which challenge all the senses will help maintain processing speed. The wider range of activities you use, the more you will stimulate your brain in different ways.”

Reading, writing, playing games or even cooking new recipes could all help to lower your dementia risk.

But, make sure you choose activities you enjoy, so you continue to do them regularly, she said.

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