Health and wellbeing column with Jessica Ammendolia

TAKE CARE: Resident Griffith health expert Jessica Ammendolia comments on how to slow the progression of dementia.

TAKE CARE: Resident Griffith health expert Jessica Ammendolia comments on how to slow the progression of dementia.

DEMENTIA is the leading cause of disability in those aged 65 years or older, with 413,106 Australians currently living with a diagnosis. 

There is no cure for most forms of dementia but we can slow the progression, only if its caught early.

Early warning signs are often noticed by the family years before a formal diagnosis is made.

However, these signs are often dismissed as a “normal part of aging” but memory loss, increasing confusion, reduced concentration and personality or behaviour changes are actually signs things aren’t right.

The good news though is that one third of diagnoses can be prevented and symptoms delayed with simple lifestyle choices.

Stay social

Humans are highly social creatures; it is no wonder that our brains need face-to-face communication to stay healthy. 

As we age, socialising becomes more difficult so try joining volunteer groups, visiting your local senior centre, making weekly dates with friends and family or visiting the local Men’s shed.

A healthy diet is good for the mind and body

Studies have shown that that a Mediterranean diet is most effective in preventing dementia.

It includes lots of fresh fruit, vegetables, beans, whole grains and healthy fats such as fish, eggs and olive oil.

While, avoiding highly processed foods and trans-fats.

Green tea, white or long teas can help enhance memory and mental alertness, so aim for two to four cups per day.

Maintaining a healthy weight is vital for dementia prevention, especially during your mid- life years when being obese can increase your dementia risk by 70-100 per cent, this makes it a stronger risk factor than smoking.

Smoking

Smoking increases your risk of dementia by 30-50%.

Giving up can be difficult both mentally and physically, so consult your health professional for supports and trial nicotine replacements where you can.

Smoking releases dopamine and raises your blood sugar levels which is why we reach for those sugary snacks when we try and quit.

Choose high protein or high fibre snacks to curb those cravings.

Physical active

Keeping physically active helps build new connections and increases blood flow to the important areas of the brain used for memory and cognition.

Aerobic exercise is most important and includes walking, jogging, dancing, swimming and cycling.

Everyone should be aiming for 150 minutes of moderate intensity exercise each week.

Always chat to your health professionals before starting a new exercise program.

Mentally stimulated

Just like your muscle, the “use it or lose it” principle applies to your brain. Learning something new, reading the paper or a good book and enjoying games, puzzles and riddles regular improves your memory and general mental well-being.

You are never too old to learn a new skill.

If you or any of your family are concerned about dementia, see your doctor for a screening.