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It is possible to guard against the risk of dementia through good daily habits. Among these small gestures to adopt, doing regular introspection would also reduce the risk of suffering from Alzheimer’s disease.

The risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease depends on many factors. Our age and our genetic make-up, of course, but also other, more environmental factors that we can modify.

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Thus, in 2022, a large study showed that adopting healthy habits, such as a diet rich in fruits and vegetables, as well as nuts and low in red or processed meats (in other words adopting the Mediterranean diet), make exercise or maintaining a healthy body mass index (BMI) between 18.5 and 24.9, could almost halve (43%) the risk of dementia.

Eating nuts is good for memory

Scientists have long ranked nuts on the long list of memory-boosting foods. A new study conducted by researchers at the University of Maastricht (Netherlands), confirms these benefits, by demonstrating the interest of consuming a handful of nuts every day to slow down cognitive decline.

For their study, the researchers recruited about sixty seniors (aged 65 on average) in good health, and divided them into two groups. The first consumed 60 g of mixed nuts every day, the second did not consume any at all. After four months on this diet, they passed verbal memory tests and “nut eaters” could remember 16% more words. Walnut consumption has beneficial effects on cerebrovascular function, say scientists and would thus have positive effects on memory.

Taking time to think is good for the brain

In July 2022, a study published in the journal Neurology, added the practice of introspection (that is, the active evaluation of one’s thoughts, feelings and behaviors) to the good habits that have a impact on cognitive impairment. This study used data from 259 participants in two clinical trials on age and cognitive decline to test the health effects of introspection. They found that analyzing one’s thoughts and behaviors had an impact on sensitive markers of Alzheimer’s disease (global cognition, glucose metabolism and amyloid deposition). “Self-reflection is associated with better global cognition in two independent cohorts and higher glucose metabolism.

An overlooked risk factor: visual impairment

Another study published in June 2022 in the journal Jama Neurology, suggests for the first time that having your eyesight checked regularly in order to manage a possible visual impairment would also reduce the risk of dementia. “Visual impairment has been identified as a risk factor for accelerated cognitive decline and incident dementia“explains Dr. Joshua Ehrlich, of the Kellog eye center in Michigan (USA), lead author of the study. “Given that a large majority of visual impairments can be treated, this may represent a viable target for future interventional research aimed at slowing cognitive decline and preventing dementia.“he adds.

In his study, the latter recognizes, however, that if the highest risk factor for dementia is hypertension (12.4%), that of visual impairment is only 1.8%. “That’s still 100,000 preventable cases of dementia across the United States.”

Sources:

  • Longer-term mixed nut consumption improves brain vascular function and memory: A randomized, controlled crossover trial in older adults, Clinical nutritionJune 2023
  • Association Between Self-Reflection, Cognition, and Brain Health in Cognitively Unimpaired Older AdultsNeurology, July 2022
  • Addition of Vision Impairment to a Life-Course Model of Potentially Modifiable Dementia Risk Factors in the USJama Neurology, June 2022
  • Genetic risk, midlife Life’s Simple 7, and incident dementia in the atherosclerosis risk in communities studyNeurology, May 25, 2022

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Good habit: introspection
According to a study published in July in the journal Neurology, regularly questioning your thoughts and feelings helps you maintain better cognitive abilities.

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Good habit: have your eyesight checked
A study published in June 2022 in the journal Jama Neurology suggests that having your eyesight checked regularly in order to manage any visual impairment can reduce the risk of dementia. Because theVisual impairment has been identified as a risk factor for accelerated cognitive decline.

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Good habit: watch your weight
To limit the risk of dementia, it is important to monitor your BMI and keep it between 18.5 and 24.9.

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Good habit: monitor your blood pressure
By putting your heart, blood vessels and other organs – like the brain – under pressure, high blood pressure can help increase the risk of dementia. Before being hypertensive, limit stimulants (coffee and alcohol) and supplement yourself (with the advice of your doctor) with vitamins B1 and B6, which are effective in the fight against stress.

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Good habit: not too many high GI foods
A diet with a low glycemic index will allow you to balance your blood sugar and thus stabilize your mood, because the sugar gradually reaches the cells. High blood sugar can damage the eyes, kidneys or even nerves, significantly increasing the risk of dementia.

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Good habit: do not smoke
Not smoking is one of the major points to limit the appearance of signs of dementia. For smokers, it is recommended to switch to vaping (in a reduced way) or to use nicotine-based substitutes such as patches.

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Good habit: control your cholesterol
While the link between cardiovascular disease due to cholesterol and the risk of dementia is well known, it could be that cholesterol has a direct impact on dementia. According to a study by the National Institute on Aging, the way cholesterol is broken down in the body could accelerate the progression of dementia.

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Good habit: exercise every week
It is advisable to do at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity or 75 minutes of vigorous activity per week, including cardio and muscle strengthening, at least twice a week.

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Good habit: have a balanced diet
To limit the risk of dementia, it is important to have a balanced diet, rich in fruits and vegetables and low in red meat and processed products, as well as good hydration. For protein, bet on lean meats, such as chicken, and fish.

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Good habit: eat more leafy green vegetables
According to a study published in early May 2022 in the journal Neurology, the consumption of leafy green vegetables, such as spinach, kale or broccoli, could help fight against the risk of Alzheimer’s disease and against any other form of dementia, in particular thanks to their richness in antioxidants.

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