Reduction in number of people smoking leads to decline in dementia rates

According to new research, dementia rates have fallen by 15% per decade over the last 30 years. Experts believe the decline is due to healthier lifestyles being adopted and the reduction in people smoking, which is a key risk factor for dementia.

The research was led by Albert Hofman, chairman of the department of epidemiology at the Harvard School of Public Health. Hofman’s team studied data from over 60,000 people across seven studies in the USA and Europe.

Early diagnosis can help safeguard against developing dementia

Dr Emer MacSweeney, CEO and Consultant Neuroradiologist, is passionate about raising awareness about the importance of leading a healthy lifestyle to safeguard against dementia. Dr MacSweeney comments, “Whilst the findings of this study are very encouraging, other risk factors for dementia such as diabetes and obesity are on the rise. Making healthy lifestyle habits as early in life as possible gives individuals the very best chance of reducing their risk of developing cognitive impairment and diseases such as dementia.”

Smoking is extremely damaging to the brain

Smokers have a 45% higher risk of developing vascular dementia and Alzheimer’s disease compared to non-smokers. Smoking increases the risk of developing diabetes, cardiovascular disease and stroke. These are all risk factors for vascular dementia. Additionally, smoking narrows the blood vessels leading to the heart and brain. This can deprive the brain of oxygen. The toxic chemicals within cigarettes increase the risk of stroke and cognitive impairment. Smoking can also interfere with the effectiveness of medication. Therefore, it’s imperative that individuals take charge of their health and quit smoking.

Dr Emer MacSweeney’s tips for safeguarding against dementia

Eat a healthy diet

Taking gastronomic inspiration from our Mediterranean friends is a great way to keep your brain and body healthy. The fresher your diet, the healthier you and your brain will be. Pack your plate full of antioxidant-rich fresh fruit and vegetables, pulses, grains and seeds. Try to eat two meals containing oily fish such as salmon or mackerel each week. Limit the amount of processed foods, sugar and preservatives in your diet.

Moderate your alcohol consumption

Stick to the recommended guidelines when drinking alcohol. Studies have indicated that people who regularly drink heavily or binge drink were more likely to develop dementia than those who drank within the recommended guidelines. Alcohol damages the brain and causes brain shrinkage. It also interferes with the way the vitamin Thiamine is absorbed into the body. Effective absorption of Thiamine is essential for providing energy to the body and brain.

Get plenty of sleep and relaxation

Sleep helps our brains clear away toxins, plaques and proteins that build up throughout the day. This helps to protect against diseases such as Alzheimer’s. Sleep also helps us to remember new things we have learnt. It improves concentration, mood and metabolism. Therefore, it’s vital to get between 6-8 hours of sleep each night.

Keep your brain active

It’s important to keep your mind active in order to maintain good cognitive function in later years. Sudoku, crosswords, puzzles, jigsaws and memory games are great exercises for the mind. After all – if you don’t use it, you’ll lose it.

Maintain a healthy lifestyle

Keep your body weight, blood pressure and cholesterol in check with annual visits to the GP. All of these factors increase the risk of vascular dementia as well as many other potentially fatal diseases. If you have any health concerns, it’s important to speak to a health professional as soon as symptoms arise. This will allow you to get an accurate diagnosis and begin treatment. An early diagnosis is key to preventing and treating any neurological condition.

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