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World Alzheimer’s Day 2017: How exercise, diet and hobbies can help stave off dementia

September 21 is World Alzheimer’s Day. Here’s what the latest research says about reducing risk of the disease.

fitness Updated: Sep 20, 2017 10:21 IST
Alzheimer’s Disease is the most common form of dementia.
Alzheimer’s Disease is the most common form of dementia. (Shutterstock)

September marks World Alzheimer’s Month with September 21 dedicated to World Alzheimer’s Day. The condition is the most common form of dementia. We round up some of the recent research which suggests science-backed ways to try and reduce your risk of Alzheimer’s disease and age healthier:

Those who stay socially active later in life report higher levels of well-being. (Shutterstock)

* Stay social
A team of UK researchers found earlier this year that positive support and a reliable and understanding relationship with partners, children, and family can help reduce the risk of developing dementia in seniors, whereas negative social support can increase it. In addition, research from the UK charity Age UK along with the University of Southampton also found that those who stay socially active later in life report higher levels of well-being overall.

Moderately intense exercise, such as a brisk walk, boosts glucose metabolism in the brain which could help protect against Alzheimer’s disease. (Shutterstock)

* Get moving

European research published online in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease found that when compared to those who did no exercise, taking part in vigorous physical activity during middle age was associated with a lower risk of cognitive impairment later in life. A US study published earlier this year also found that moderately intense exercise, such as a brisk walk, boosts glucose metabolism in the brain which could help protect against Alzheimer’s disease. Those who spent at least 68 minutes per day engaged in moderate physical activity also showed even better glucose metabolism profiles than those who spent less time exercising.

The Mediterranean diet (MedDiet) which is rich in fresh fruit and vegetables, beans, nuts and ‘healthy’ fats can reduce risk of dementia. (Shutterstock)

* Eat a healthy diet

Four studies presented at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference earlier this year suggested that certain diets can help to reduce the risk of dementia. The research found that the Mediterranean diet (MedDiet), low in meat and dairy but rich in fresh fruit and vegetables, beans, nuts and ‘healthy’ fats; the MIND diet (Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay), which is similar to the MedDiet and includes foods beneficial in preventing cognitive decline such as berries; and the Nordic Prudent Dietary Pattern (NPDP), which avoids sugary, fatty and processed foods but includes plenty of fruit, vegetables, poultry, fish, and vegetable oil, could help slow cognitive decline.

Enjoying craft activities such as woodworking, pottery, ceramics, and sewing reduced the risk of dementia by 45%. (Shutterstock)

* Take up a hobby

Research from the Mayo Clinic found that participating in arts and crafts activities could delay the onset of cognitive decline that often leads to dementia. The team found that those who took part in artistic hobbies such as painting, drawing, and sculpting, were 73% less likely to develop mild cognitive impairment than those who didn’t, whilst enjoying craft activities such as woodworking, pottery, ceramics, and sewing reduced the risk by 45%.

A 2013 study also suggested that reading, writing and other brain stimulating activities could be useful in warding off cognitive decline. UK research presented at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference (AAIC) 2017 found that the more often people do word puzzles such as crosswords, the better their brain functions as they age.

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