By Amy Hunt
Dementia is one of the biggest killers of the 21st century - affecting one in six people over the age of 80.
A degenerative brain disease, it's without doubt one of the most prevelant illnesses in the UK - explaining why everyone wants to know how to stop it.
At the moment, there is currently no way to cure any form of dementia, although researchers are working on that very thing all th time.
But while you may not be able to prevent it completely, there are some ways that you can work to reduce your risk of getting dementia.
And some of the most effective ways are ensuring that you are eating the right things - and keeping the wrong things out of your diet.
Dementia prevention diet
What to eat
Diets full of fresh, healthy food are understandably considered the best to help protect against the brain disease.
To this end, many researchers suggest following the Mediterranean diet which is full of healthy fats, oils, fruit, vegetables, grains, nuts and fish. Red meat is limited.
Found within many of these foods, specifically things like spinach, berries and kale, are antioxidants, which scientists believe can protect against some of the damage dementia does to our brain cells.
Inflammation in the brain is associated with Alzheimer's disease - and experts suggest that antioxidants can help reduce inflammation.
Other foods that are full of antioxidants include strawberries, cherries, brocolli and tomatoes - all fresh, natural produce.
What not to eat
Logically, unhealthy, high-fat foods top the list of those you should avoid if you want to try and reduce your risk of dementia. Alzheimer's Research UK has concluded that foods high in saturated fat - such as cakes, biscuits, processed meats and butter, are best avoided if you want any chance of preventing the disease.
This is because high amounts of fat can cause your cholesterol to rise, and can also result in weight gain.
High cholesterol and weighing more than you should are known risk factors for developing the disease - so if you can prevent these from occuring with a healthy diet free from saturated fats, you'll be well on your way to a healthy future.
In the same vein, avoiding sugary snacks and fizzy drinks is also advised for a dementia prevention diet.
Too much sugar can lead to weight gain, and also increase your risk of developing type 2 diabetes - conditions which can both elevate your risk of getting the dementia.
According to Alzheimer's Research UK, alcohol consumption is also linked to various forms of dementia. However, there is no direct link between alcohol and Alzheimer's disease - a type of dementia.
For this reason, limiting your intake to the advised 14 units a week is probably your safest bet if you want to help reduce your dementia risk.
But aside from adjusting your diet, how can you reduce your chances of getting dementia in the future?
How to prevent dementia:
Physical exercise is one of the key things you should be doing regularly in order to reduce your risk of being diagnosed in future.
Getting in regular physical activity increases blood and oxygen flow to the brain, which is suggested to directly benefit our brain cells.
But how much do we need? The Alzheimer's Society UK advises 150 minutes of 'moderate' aerobic exercise a week - such as "brisk walking" or "riding a bike".
They also suggest we should be doing an additional 75 minutes a week of 'vigorous' aerobic exercise, such as running or fast swimming.
Resistance activites are also advised - such as weights or push-ups/sit-ups.
Ditching the cigarettes is one of the most important things to do if you want to cut your risk of dementia, according to the Alzheimer's Society.
When we smoke, we harm the circulation in our bodies - which can in turn damage the blood vessels in our brains.
This damage can in turn lead to a development of dementia, so it's important to quit the habit as soon as possible if you want to reduce your chances of getting it.
Challenge your brain
Alzheimer's Society UK suggest that exercising our minds could also be very beneficial. According to them, keeping your brain active on a regular basis is way of building up the brain's ability to cope with the risk of the disease.
Some ways you could do this include reading challenging books, completing a crossword, study for a qualification or just learn a new skill or hobby, and do quizzes or puzzles.
Staying social and interacting with people on a regular basis is also key to help you continually challenge yourself and your brain.
You could perhaps join a local social group, or volunteer in your area.
If you want any advice about dementia or Alzheimer's disease, visit the Alzheimer's Society on their website here, or call them on their helpline, at 0300 222 1122.
Amy Hunt is an experienced digital journalist, currently working as Life Channel Editor at womanandhome.com. She began as the magazine's features assistant before moving over to digital as a News and Features Writer, before becoming Senior Writer, and now a Channel Editor. She has worked on other women's lifestyle websites previously too—including Woman's Weekly, Goodto.com, Woman, and Woman's Own. In 2019, Amy won the Digital Journalist of the Year award at the AOP Awards, for her work on womanandhome.com.
She is obsessive about everything homes and interiors—whether she's sniffing out the very best deal on a KitchenAid stand mixer or keeping up the latest Dyson release. And when she isn't editing or writing articles on interior trends or the latest home gadgets, she's passionate about books—you'll usually find her with her nose in a gripping thriller at the end of the working day.
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