Doctor Hilary Jones’ tips to reduce brain decline

“As this week is Dementia Action Week, I thought it important to write a short piece on the topic. Because for the first time ever there has been a sustained drop in dementia diagnosis rates in this country.

As well as the misconception around memory loss just being part of getting old, research from the Alzheimer’s Society found being in denial, and referral times to specialists are also big barriers for those experiencing symptoms to seek a diagnosis.

For this year’s Dementia Action Week, the charity wants to encourage those who might be living with (or close to someone who might be living with) undiagnosed dementia to understand and recognise potential dementia symptoms in order to take the next step.

Understanding the issue

While there is still much we do not yet understand, there are some smalls ways people can reduce their risk of dementia from dietary tweaks to how you can stimulate the brain.

Firstly As we get older, it’s very important to keep your mind active.

You can do this by challenging your brain with puzzles, reading books, learning new skills, or taking art classes.

Keeping the brain sharp doesn't require joining MENSA – as it can be as simple as engaging with loved ones or working out how to text and email family members.

To help protect the brain from toxins, it's also advisable to stay away from cigarette smoke and to limit the body's exposure to alcohol. Because we know that smoking does a lot of harm to the body, including the blood vessels in the brain, and the heart.

If you’re a smoker you’re not only heightening your risk of cancer and heart disease, you’re also increasing your risk of dementia too. Talk to your GP or pharmacist for support on ways to stop smoking as a matter of priority."

As for alcohol consumption, if you are regularly drinking more than 14 units a week, you're at risk of damaging your brain. What's the equivalent of 14 units? It's 10 small (125ml) glasses of wine or seven pints or beer in a week.

Binge drinking is particularly bad because you’re exposing your brain to really toxic levels of alcohol in one sitting. Your brain and liver will thank you for cutting down and spreading your units over the week.

In addition to removing toxins from the diet, you need to make sure it's healthy overall in other ways to help minimise the risk of dementia.

A healthy natural diet

A healthy, balanced diet that contains a variety of different food groups, sensible portions and not too many treats is a really great way of staying healthy. A Mediterranean-style diet is a great way of achieving this.

What we mean by that is a diet that’s full of vegetables, lean meat and natural foods over processed alternatives.

Think more chicken and fish rather than heavier red meats. Try and cook with olive oil, eat fresh fruit for desert and experiment with adding grains or nuts into your food for added nutrition.”

You can read more about Dementia Action Week here on the Alzheimer’s Society’s website.

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