A major review by Lancet Commission on Dementia Prevention, Intervention, and Care (LCDPIC) has identified nine ways to reduce your risk of developing dementia. The great news is all 9 risk factors can be addressed with lifestyle changes.
The risk factors were:
#1 Low levels of education
People who did not pursue secondary education have a 7.5 % increased risk of developing dementia. While you may not want to go back to school to earn a degree if you are 50 and older, you can continue to learn. Right here in our community, there is the Academy for Lifelong Learning, held at Lone Star College. Various programs, workshops, and other learning opportunities are available to the 50 + crowd in Cypress, Tomball and The Woodlands. The topics are varied and include:
- Arts & Crafts
- Computer & Technology
- Culinary Arts, Food & Cooking
- Financial & Legal
- Fun, Hobbies & Recreation
- Health, Fitness & Nutrition
- Home & Auto
- Movies, Music & Theater
- Political & Community Affairs
- Reading & Writing
- Science & Nature
- Travel & Culture
On top of this, it is also very affordable. A $20 per campus fee or $55 global campus fee will cover many of the classes, workshops and bus trips. There may be a small fee for some classes usually to cover supplies needed. (Like the jewelry making) Keeping your brain active by continuing to learn new things will help reduce your chance of dementia.
#2 Midlife Hearing Loss
The LCDPIC analysis estimates a 9.1 % increase in your risk of dementia. The study is not sure why this is so. But it suggests that it may be due to social isolation and added stress brought on by being unable to hear and join in on conversations.
It is important to have your hearing checked regularly. Hearing aids and devices may be able to help someone with hearing loss. However, one of the challenges for a lot of seniors is the high cost of hearing aids. And this is something Medicare will not pay for. At upwards of $2500, seniors may not feel their loss is significant to warrant purchasing the device.
There is an alternative. Technology is getting better every day. And there are a number of sound amplification devices that offer good results. In fact, an audiologist from John Hopkins, Dr. Nicholas Reed identified three products under $400 that he says do a pretty good job. In a New York Times Article, he explained the testing methods he and his colleges used to determine the effectiveness.
The first one requires a smart phone to use while the second two do not.
#3 Physical Inactivity
This cannot be stressed enough. Study after study shows that we need to stay physically active in order to lower our risk of many diseases including dementia. In fact, according to this report physical inactivity increases your risk by 2.6% While it may not seem like that much pair it with these other lifestyle changes and you will start noticing a real benefit. A simple daily walk can make a difference.
Increasing your physical activity may also lower your blood pressure, help you to lose weight and reduce your chance of diabetes. All of these factors increase your risk level.
#4 High blood pressure (hypertension)
High blood pressure is often the culprit responsible for strokes. Studies have shown a strong correlation between strokes (even the smaller ones called TIA’s) and vascular dementia. High blood pressure can silently damage your blood vessels for years before an event. This is why it is so important to make sure you have your blood pressure checked regularly. If you are prescribed medication make sure you take it is as directed and notify your physician of any changes. Talk to your doctor about diet and exercise changes you may need to make. Getting this under control is important for your health and may also reduce your chance of developing dementia.
#5 Type 2 Diabetes
Type 2 diabetes has exploded in the US. 29.1 million people in the US have been diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes. And furthermore, 1.4 million more cases are diagnosed each year according to the CDC. Those with diabetes have twice the chance of having heart disease or a stroke. On top of that, there are other risks associated with this disease. Blindness and other eye diseases, kidney disease and amputations are high on the list of complications people with diabetes may experience.
Are you at risk? If you have any of the following risk factors you should make sure your blood sugar is checked yearly or more often if you have multiple risks.
- Being overweight.
- Being 45 years or older.
- Having a family history of type 2 diabetes.
- Being physically active less than 3 times a week.
- Ever having gestational diabetes or giving birth to a baby who weighed more than 9 pounds.
Certain ethnicities are also at a higher risk.
Obesity is different from being overweight. Obesity is having too much body fat. Obesity often goes hand in hand with diabetes and high blood pressure. Added weight, especially when carried around the middle. Being obese can increase your risk of diabetes, heart disease, stroke, arthritis, and some cancers.
These are three more risk factors that can be controlled with diet, exercise and stress management. These last 3 risk facts add an additional 4% risk to your chance of getting dementia. Not much you say? Consider adding up these first 6 risk factors. Now you have a 23.2% greater chance of getting dementia.
This will add a whopping 5.5 % increase in your risk of getting g dementia. There are numerous programs that can help you stop smoking. Talk to your doctor to find a plan that will work for you.
There have been a number of studies over the years about dementia and depression and the connection between the two. According to this study, depression can up your chance of developing dementia by 4 %
#9 Social Interaction
The truth is we are social beings. As such we were not designed to be solitary. Many seniors have become isolated in their own homes. Due to the physical and mental limitations, they may no longer be able to drive.
“My mom had severe arthritis. It had become difficult for her to really get around. As such, she stayed home alone most days and rarely had visitors. Living on the other side of Houston, the commute was well over an hour. I came as often as I could but knew that it wasn’t often enough” ~ Carolyn
Add another 2.3 % if you have become a recluse in your home. An easy fix for this would be to hire a home care companion. Someone to visit, play games, take shopping and more. We all need to have connections to other people.
“We brought in-home care a few days a week for mom and she is a new woman. Her eyes are bright and she smiles again. I think she was very lonely before. Andrea, her companion, even helps mom to communicate with her grandchildren on video calls. They love it and so does she. This was the smartest move we ever made.“ ~ Jill
All nine factors add up to a 35 % increased chance of developing dementia. And the key is there are steps you can take today to lower your risk. Call SYNERGY HomeCare today to see how we can help.