Understanding Modifiable Risk Factors For Dementia
Being aware of the risks associated with dementia is an essential step towards preventing or minimising its effects on our lives. Therefore, to fulfil our mission to add life to years, it is vital for us to produce and share our research.
In our latest study, published by the Frontiers Psychology Journal, we wanted to see how well-versed people are in brain health behaviours that can increase the risk for dementia and whether risk factor awareness and exposure vary by age, gender, and education level.
Read on to see what we found and gain better insight into dementia and how you can protect yourself!
Dementia awareness: What did we find?
- Out of the 551 individuals polled, only 66% of participants were aware that it's possible to reduce one's risk for dementia.
- The majority knew that head injury, low mental stimulation and alcohol consumption are all risk factors for dementia.
- However, few participants knew that depression, hearing loss, air pollution and diabetes also increase risk.
- Risk factor awareness tended to be greater among university-educated participants.
- Men were more likely to have multiple risk factors than women.
It's perhaps unsurprising that 90% of our sample was aware of the link between head injury and dementia, given recent high-profile cases of ex-professional sports players with head injuries who have developed dementia at an early age.
Overall, there is still much to be done to raise awareness of the other modifiable risk factors for dementia.
Since lifestyle changes can prevent or delay up to 40% of dementia cases, we must continue to empower and educate individuals to help spread awareness for us all to take control of their brain health.
Related: Can we prevent dementia?
Steps to Lower Your Risk for Dementia
You can do several things to lower your risk of developing dementia. Some include:
1. Brain exercise
The more you are cognitively stimulating your mind, the better your chance of lowering your risk for dementia. Try thinking about what you have always wanted to learn but haven't - then go for it!
2. Getting enough sleep
Aim for 7-8 hours per night. If you're not getting that much sleep, there are things you can do to improve your sleep habits. For example, try to avoid caffeine late in the day, establish a regular bedtime routine, and create a calm and comfortable environment in your bedroom.
3. A healthy diet
Eating a healthy diet is essential for maintaining cognitive function and reducing the risk of dementia. A diet rich in vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and healthy fats is most beneficial. Avoid processed foods, sugary drinks, and red meat.
4. Engaging in physical activity
Regular exercise has been shown to reduce the risk of Alzheimer's disease and other types of dementia. By exercising, you can protect your brain from age-related changes and improve brain function. Where to start? It is more effective to make small changes to how you live your life daily rather than making significant changes in a big way all at once.
Social isolation is also a significant risk factor for dementia. Staying connected with family and friends and participating in social activities is incredible for every part of our lives!
6. Mood & stress management
Mood disorders such as depression and anxiety can also increase your risk of developing dementia. If you're feeling stressed, there are many things you can do to reduce your stress levels. Exercise, relaxation techniques, and talking to someone about your concerns can help.
Our research shows that there is much more work needed to educate the public about their personal risk factors for dementia. While we may not be able to directly control some of these risks, like increasing age or family history, there are other lifestyle choices that can help reduce your risk for developing this condition. By making healthy dietary changes, maintaining an active lifestyle and being socially connected with friends and loved ones, you can positively impact your overall health and potentially decrease the likelihood of developing dementia in the future.
Find the published research study in the Frontiers Psychology journal.