7 things to stop doing to reduce your risk of dementia

Dementia is the seventh leading cause of death among all diseases and one of the major causes of disability and dependency among older people. Two new studies have revealed things you need to stop doing to reduce your risk
7 things to stop doing to reduce your risk of dementia

Musicians are 64% less likely to develop mild cognitive impairment or dementia.

One of the diseases many of us are most scared of getting is dementia. It is such a deeply traumatic and upsetting illness, for you and those around you. But, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO), more than 55 million people live with dementia worldwide, and there are nearly 10 million new cases every year.

We are all keen to find ways to prevent the disease as much as we are able, but there are lots of things we do every day that are increasing our risk. Many know about the benefits of using our brains and eating foods like blueberries, but sneaking sugary snacks and sitting at your desk all day can make your chances of dementia more likely.

Here are seven things to stop doing right now to help avoid dementia.

1. Drinking fizzy drinks 

Turns out a can of coke or too much lemonade could increase your chances of developing dementia. People who consume the highest amounts of ultra-processed foods, like fizzy drinks and chocolate, may have a higher risk of developing dementia than those who eat the lowest amounts, a new study by Huiping Li, of Tianjin Medical University in China, published in the Neurology journal, has indicated.

2. Gobbling up a full English 

Sadly, most of our favourite full English ingredients like sausages, ketchup and baked beans are highly processed, making them a huge risk-factor if consumed too frequently.

Li, the author of the new study, says: “These foods may also contain food additives, or molecules from packaging or produced during heating, all of which have been shown in other studies to have negative effects on thinking and memory skills.

“Our research not only found that ultra-processed foods are associated with an increased risk of dementia, it found replacing them with healthy options may decrease dementia risk.” 

55 million people live with dementia worldwide, and there are nearly 10 million new cases every year.
55 million people live with dementia worldwide, and there are nearly 10 million new cases every year.

3. Eating cookies and chocolate 

Yep, too much chocolate and things like biscuits aren’t going to do you any favours either, once again, because they are highly processed and sugary. In fact, according to the study, for every 10% increase in daily intake of ultra-processed foods, people had a 25% higher risk of dementia. So, even just having a few extra biscuits or chocolates at work each day can heighten your risk.

4. Having a desk job 

We all know being slumped at your desk, staring at a screen all day isn’t great for your health, but it turns out sedentary jobs actually increase your risk of getting dementia.

Dr Sara Imarisio, head of research at Alzheimer’s Research UK, says: “Our brains are incredibly complex, responsible for our memory, as well as what we think, feel and do.

“Keeping our brains healthy as we age can help stave off diseases like Alzheimer’s, which physically attack brain cells, tearing away at the very essence of who we are.

“We know that being physically and socially active can help us feel happier, healthier and more positive in general.

“Lifting weights and running marathons aren’t for everyone, but there are many ways that we can stay physically active in our lives.” 

Noting more research published in the Neurology Journal, by Huan Song of Sichuan University in China, Imarisio continues: “This self-reported study adds to evidence that finding something you can stick to that keeps you physically and socially active is likely to have the greatest benefit to your health, rather than the activity itself.

“The researchers found that even people with a high genetic risk for Alzheimer’s, the most common cause of dementia, could benefit from keeping physically active.” 

people who were highly engaged in activity patterns, including frequent exercise and daily visits of family and friends, had 35% and 15% lower risk respectively, compared with people who were the least engaged. Picture: PA
people who were highly engaged in activity patterns, including frequent exercise and daily visits of family and friends, had 35% and 15% lower risk respectively, compared with people who were the least engaged. Picture: PA

5. Not making an effort to see family and friends 

Social interaction is a really important way to keep your brain sharp and reduce your risk of dementia. If you avoid it, you are risking your health.

According to Song’s research, people who were highly engaged in activity patterns, including frequent exercise and daily visits of family and friends, had 35% and 15% lower risk respectively, compared with people who were the least engaged.

6. Avoiding chores 

According to the same study, carrying out household chores is associated with a 21% reduced risk of dementia. Perhaps just increasing your brain activity a little, even just by washing up or changing your sheets, can help keep your mind active.

7. Giving up playing an instrument 

Don’t give up playing an instrument, and maybe start playing one, even if you never have before.

According to several studies, musicians are 64% less likely to develop mild cognitive impairment or dementia.

There may be numerous things to avoid, but it is empowering to be able to take our own health into our hands and live a healthier and happier life, while also protecting ourselves from the risk of dementia.

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