A 15 year study of older adults showed that obesity and higher waist circumference are linked to a 28% higher risk of dementia. This link is relatively new and is independent of other known dementia risk factors, such as demographics, inactivity, smoking, apolipoprotein E-ε4, hypertension, heart disease, depression and diabetes. Other studies have replicated this observation, with some showing up to a 70% higher risk of dementia in obese individuals.
Furthermore, obesity is a significant risk factor for arthritis, diabetes and a range of inflammatory diseases including infertility.
To mitigate this risk of dementia, evidence shows that exercise, dietary factors such as omega 3 fatty acids, Mediterranean diet and antioxidants, light alcohol consumption and cognitive exercises, all work. Maintaining optimal blood pressure and cholesterol is also important, as well as ensuring minimal alcohol, smoking and excess weight. Normal ranges include:
- Blood pressure – the top number (systolic – when your heart pumps) should be 130 or less, and the bottom number (diastolic – when your heart relaxes) should be 80 or less
- Total cholesterol – less than 5.5 mmol per litre if no cardiovascular risk factors, or LDL (bad cholesterol component) less than 2 mmol per litre for those who smoke, have high blood pressure or pre-existing heart disease
- Alcohol consumption – recommended is less than 10 standard drinks per week (and no smoking)
- Body Mass Index of 25 or less (weight in kilos, divided by height in metres squared) – over 25 is overweight and over 30 is obese (two-thirds of Australians are one of the two)
Scientific ways to lose weight include:
- Very low calorie diet – consider this in conjunction with your GP and dietitian
- Bariatric surgery – reducing the size of your stomach or banding to restrict intake
- Intense exercise, including aqua aerobics, cycling and walking 10,000 steps daily (and minimising sedentary behaviour)
- There is also evidence for supportive measures, including green tea, accupuncture and community gardening
- And in limited situations, medications prescribed by your GP.
High antioxidant foods include:
- Strawberries, goji berries, blueberries and pomegranate
- Kale, tomatoes, spinach and pumpkin seeds
- Chia seeds, ginger, cinnamon, tumeric and cumin
- Pecans, almonds and artichokes
Be on the look out for early signs and symptoms of dementia, including:
- Short term memory loss
- Changes in behaviour or personality – bursts of anger, fluctuating mood
- Confusion in daily tasks or repetitive questioning or behaviours
- Difficulties in processing space/time tasks e.g. getting lost on the way to the shops
- Stress, agitation, paranoia or restlessness with any changes in routine, or late in the day
- Inappropriate sayings or behaviour
- Any wandering, hallucination or ongoing anxiety or depression
Join Osana’s online exercise, nutrition and mindfulness classes to help reduce your risk of dementia, and look out for our program on ageing well which will be launched towards the end of the year.