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