It’s a thing we all worry about these days, as we get older, and it’s now overtaken heart attacks as a major cause of death in the UK.
That’s partly because more of us are living into old age, of course. But just like late-onset diabetes, dementia is quite strongly linked with various lifestyle factors.
It’s not possible to say ‘Avoid this and you won’t get dementia’, because so many factors are involved, but it is possible to reduce your own personal risk. Here are some of the things you can do:
1. Eat a ‘rainbow diet’. Dementia is an inflammatory condition, and anything that reduces inflammation will help. That means fruit and vegetables, especially brightly coloured ones, oily fish, and a minimum of refined carbohydrates and sugar. Anti-inflammatory herbs like Ginkgo, Rosemary and Gotu Kola (Centella asiatica) can help too.
2. Get exercise. A moderate amount every day boosts your circulation and helps oxygenate your brain. If it’s outdoors, it’s more stimulating just because you are in a changing environment.
3. Keep learning. If you keep stretching yourself intellectually, you are less likely to lose brainpower. Staying inside your comfort zone is a good way to make it smaller.
4. Sleep well. Even in old age, we need plenty of sleep, and our cognitive faculties are lowered when we don’t get enough. ‘Wind down’ properly at the end of the day; don’t eat too late or look at screens before bed.
5. If you don’t get outside much, a vitamin D supplement may be a good idea, especially in winter. There is quite a strong association between severe deficiency and dementia.
6. Manage your stress levels. Chronic stress can erode your ability to function in all sorts of ways. Herbs like Scullcap, Passion Flower and Vervain may be helpful here.
7. Socialise. Spending time with friends, talking and laughing and listening, is a good thing for all sorts of reasons. All too often, elderly people spend far too much time alone, and friends are good for the soul as well as bringing colour to your life.