Our ageing population and rise of chronic health conditions highlights the opportunity for preventative health. Recent studies on this topic include:

  • Half of dementia risk is preventable – these are the avoidable risk factors and their relative contribution to dementia occurring in an individual: inactivity 18%, obesity 17%, low education status 15%, high blood pressure 14%, depression 8%, hearing impairment 8%, smoking 4% and diabetes 2%
  • Reducing inflammation in the brain is key – this involves eating less sugar, refined or processed foods and getting adequate, quality sleep. Neuro-genesis, the formation of new brain cells, and neuro-plasticity, the adaptation and connection of existing neurons, are both important in maintaining cognitive function. Adopting the Mediterranean or DASH diets helps with both these processes and reduces inflammation – these diets consist of whole grains, fruit and vegetables, fish, olive oil, nuts, diary, white meat and red wine
  • An alternative is following the diet in the Okinawa Islands in Japan, where the highest concentrations of centenarians in the world exist. The Okinawa diet consists of green vegetables, high fibre carbohydrates (e.g. buckwheat noodles, sweet potatoes), soyfoods (e.g. miso, tofu), seafood and seaweed, shiitake mushrooms, bitter melon and jasmine tea. It’s low on sugar, oils and fats
  • Sleep is really important – not getting enough sleep during your 50’s and 60’s is associated with a 30% higher risk of dementia
  • Friends and social activities matter during senior years – better social interaction enables a sense of purpose, greater resilience and less anxiety or pain, enhances self-motivation for fun and play, and improves quality of life. Conversely, social isolation is linked to higher incidence of dementia (by 50%), chronic health issues (by 30% such as stroke and heart disease), and premature death (by 30%)
  • Exercise counters the natural physical ageing effects on the body, such as reduced muscle mass, reduced balance and coordination, less mobility, lower bone density, higher blood pressure and susceptibility to anxiety, depression and cardiovascular disease
  • Drink green tea, which is neuro-protective (reduces brain inflammation)
  • Improve your “good”cholesterol (high density lipo-protein, or HDL) which can reduce dementia risk by 64% – HDL can be increased by simple actions such as  eating carrot sticks & olive oil (50%), sipping cocoa (24%), taking a curcumin supplement (29%) or climbing stairs (12%).

References:

  • https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6746160/
  • https://www.wellandgood.com/how-to-stay-mentally-sharp/
  • https://www.nature.com/articles/s41467-021-22354-2
  • https://insightplus.mja.com.au/2021/8/almost-half-of-dementia-risk-is-modifiable-gps-told/
  • https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5403516/
  • https://www.physicalactivityaustralia.org.au/healthy-ageing-staying-physically-active/
  • https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/15009657/
  • https://academic.oup.com/innovateage/article/3/Supplement_1/S533/5615751
  • https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25910392/
  • https://www.womansworld.com/posts/alzheimers/lower-risk-of-dementia