There is no cure for dementia, though scientists are really trying to change that. Once you’ve been diagnosed with the disease, there’s no way to reverse it. But despite the myths, there’s still a lot you can do to reduce your risk sooner rather than later.
Here are the habits you can (and should) develop in your 60s to delay, or even prevent, the onset of dementia within the next decade or so.
1. Keeping tabs on your alcohol intake
Drinking too much alcohol (more than one to two drinks per day) increases your chances of developing health problems that will increase your dementia risk. You don’t have to stop drinking. Just make sure you’re not indulging too much, too often.
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2. Seeing a therapist
People living with untreated or poorly managed mental health conditions, such as depression, are at an increased risk of developing other health problems, such as dementia. There’s nothing wrong with talking to a therapist. Doing so could improve more than one area in your life.
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3. Visiting your doctor on schedule
The earlier dementia is diagnosed, the more access you may have to treatments and procedures that could extend your life. Making and attending regular appointments with your doctor also ensures you’ll get treated for other health issues that could increase your overall dementia risk.
Next: This might seem like a useless habit, but it could make a huge difference.
Stress is a common risk factor for conditions that increase your dementia risk, like high blood pressure. While a simple, daily 10-minute meditation might not solve all your problems, it can help you stay healthy despite life’s many stressors.
Next: Your brain may need a good workout.
5. Exercising your brain
Your brain changes as you age — and not always for the better. This is one reason so many diseases are more common in people over 65. Make these mental exercises a habit to keep your brain healthy and decrease your dementia risk.
Next: Have lunch with some friends every now and then.
6. Staying socially active
The older you get, the harder it can be to maintain relationships. It’s important to stay connected with family and friends, even through phone or video calls. Those who maintain active social lives tend to live longer and stay healthier, and have a lower risk of developing conditions like dementia.
Next: If your doctor tells you to do this, listen!
7. Watching your weight
Being overweight doesn’t directly cause dementia. But it can increase the likelihood you’ll develop other diseases that increase your dementia risk. Follow your doctor’s or dietitian’s recommendations for achieving and maintaining a healthy weight.
Next: This can be a tricky habit to start and keep up with, but it’s worth it.
8. Getting your workouts in, even when you don’t feel like it
Exercise isn’t just good for your body; it’s good for your brain, too. Physical activity can improve blood flow to your brain and reduce other risk factors that can increase your chances of getting dementia. Just 30 minutes of activity, five days a week, will do the trick.
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9. Managing your blood pressure
High blood pressure increases your risk of developing a handful of diseases and conditions, including dementia. If you’ve been diagnosed, your doctor should have given you instructions for keeping your blood pressure within a safe range. Do your best to follow their guidelines.
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10. Maintaining healthy levels of cholesterol
Too much of a certain type of cholesterol in your blood can increase your risk of heart disease, which also puts you at risk for life-threatening conditions like dementia. If you’ve been diagnosed with high cholesterol, try your best to avoid these foods.
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11. Keeping your blood sugar under control
Whether you’ve been diagnosed with diabetes or not, uncontrolled blood sugar can damage your heart, which can increase your dementia risk. Take steps to manage your diabetes, or avoid developing it, to avoid getting dementia.
Next: This bad habit needs to stop ASAP.
12. Saying no to cigarettes
Smoking destroys your lungs, endangers your heart, increases your risk of cancer, and makes you much more likely to die of a stroke. Even if a stroke doesn’t kill you, your chances of developing dementia in your 60s and beyond.
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13. Eating heart-healthy foods
How many heart-healthy foods do you eat on a daily basis? Five servings? One serving? None? Make sure you get into the habit of eating plenty of lean meat, whole grains, and beans to maintain a strong, functional heart.
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14. Taming your sweet tooth
You’ve probably been told that eating too much salt increases your disease risk. Unfortunately, eating too much sugar can be just as dangerous, if not more so. Excess sugar intake can damage your heart, which can affect your brain and increase your risk of developing dementia.
Next: This specific diet might reduce your dementia risk — and it includes alcohol!
15. Dining Mediterranean style
If you eat the right foods, can you really avoid dementia? At the very least, you could significantly decrease your risk and increase the number of healthy years you have left. Research suggests following the Mediterranean diet may be the secret to protecting yourself against dementia. The good news? Wine’s allowed.
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