Dr Emer MacSweeney, Consultant Neuroradiologist and CEO at Re:Cognition Health spoke with Health Tech World about how our  lifestyle choices may be increasing our risk of dementia.

Recent research by the Baycrest Centre for Geriatric care suggests important lifestyle factors may be more important than age, in determining our cognitive ability, based upon a 20-minute cognitive assessment plus a questionnaire assessing modifiable risk factors for dementia, including:

  • Low education
  • Hearing loss
  • Traumatic brain injury
  • Alcohol or substance abuse
  • Smoking 
  • Diabetes
  • Depression 

Dr MacSweeney is encouraged by the latest findings and future research into the modifiable risk factors for Alzheimer’s and other causes of dementia; with every study we learn more about these diseases and our potential ability for diagnosis and treatment. 

Whilst some risk factors are more difficult to manage there are many changes we can make, on a daily basis, to preserve and promote our cognitive function. 

Below Dr MacSweeney shares her lifestyle advice for supporting brain function and helping to reduce the risk of dementia:

Exercise the mind and body:

Physical activity can help protect against many diseases, keeping our heart, muscles, bones and brain in optimum condition. Exercise can also help reduce stress, decrease anxiety and help us process emotions, improve our ability to focus and reduce the ageing of the brain.

Regular exercise is one of the best things you can do for your body and brain and it is not just limited to physical exercise. Exercising your brain and mind is very important -if you don’t use it you’ll use it!  Try incorporating “brain workouts” into your daily life – remembering phone numbers, directions, shopping lists and doing crosswords or puzzles. Learning a musical instrument or a second language, are hugely beneficial. 

Eat a nutritious diet:

The brain and body rely on good quality nutrition to function adequately and safeguard against disease and degeneration.  Good nutrition is integral to brain health. Avoid processed foods, reduce sugar, follow a Mediterranean diet and ensure good hydration (2 litres of water a day) to promote cognitive health.

Drink alcohol in moderation – Stick to the recommended guidelines when drinking alcohol. Alcohol damages our brain in lots of ways; it adversely affects our sleep, which in itself is bad for the brain, and also our nutrition by interfering with absorption of a vitamin, thiamine, which is essential for energy.

Stop smoking- Smokers have an increased risk of developing diabetes, cardiovascular disease and stroke, which are all risk factors for vascular dementia, compared to non-smokers. 

Get 6-8 hours of quality sleep every night

Adopt a good work/life balance and socialise

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