Preventing Your Own Dementia – Are You Being A Bit of An Ostrich?

Dementia is a little bit like a pension; some of us have it sorted. These people have been putting money aside since they started their first job – (you know who you are! And you are right to have a smug face!). These people know their retirement is going to be completely comfortable – nothing to worry about there.

For the ostriches (that’s me), this is not the case. It was on my fortieth birthday that I realised I maybe ought to think about the later years of my life a bit. I cashed in my NHS pension in my 20s to go travelling in Europe, I only got as far as Cyprus – planning ahead was never really my forte. It’s no surprise then that I am now working extra hard to ensure I have the ability to stop work before my 95th birthday. 

So what’s this got to do with dementia? It’s the Ostrich effect.

Despite dementia being the most feared health condition for people over the age of 55 – more than any other life-threatening disease, including cancer and diabetes – the majority of people are not in the slightest bit engaged in looking after their brain health.

Maybe it’s because many people still believe dementia is an inevitable part of ageing (it isn’t), or maybe it’s because dementia is so terrifying it’s better not to think about it (more likely).

What if you knew that you could be doing something today to reduce your dementia risk by 40%? Would you take action?

The news this week that one in ten adults say their brain health has deteriorated in the pandemic (Alzheimers Research UK) does not come as a huge surprise. The lack of socialisation and increased physical inactivity that is occurring up and down the country due to lockdown will not create a good outcome for any of us.

Please know that:

  • Dementia isn’t inevitable. 
  • 40% of cases can be delayed or prevented. 
  • There are 12 modifiable risk factors that you can do something about.

Have a look at these and see what changes you could make today…

  1. Hearing Loss – Get your hearing checked. Hearing loss is not always easy to pick up as a problem for you. It is likely to be others that notice it first. If someone asks you if you have trouble with your hearing it may be worth getting it checked. Hearing aids are amazing these days! Such a simple solution that can have a marked improvement on your brain health.
  2. Low-Level Education – This highlights why we should be looking at ways we can help those disadvantaged by digital poverty in accessing their education during the pandemic. Whilst this pertains to early years education, life long learning plays a part too. Enrol on courses, learn an instrument, try a new language.

  3. Physical Inactivity – The evidence for the role this plays in our brain health is overwhelming. Move, move and move some more. You need to be doing some sort of physical activity every day.

  4. Hypertension – If you have high blood pressure in your family, get checked. Eat healthily, follow a Mediterranean diet full of green leafy veg, olive oil, legumes, nuts and seeds. Drink two litres of water a day.

  5. Type 2 Diabetes – As above, a good healthy diet is a life-enhancing habit to get in to.

  6. Obesity – Maintain a healthy weight. It is not a surprise that obesity increases the risk of both number 4 and 5.

  7. Smoking – Time to stop.

  8. Depression – Just as your physical health plays a role, so does your mental health. Get into the habit of talking about you feel to those you trust and don’t let a persistent low mood go unchecked. Seek help.

  9. Social Isolation – Do what you can to get sociable. This is even more important for those of us who are introverts, particularly during a global pandemic! Join that networking zoom, create rituals like walking the dog with a friend every Friday. Make social interactions happen even when it’s the last thing you want to do. Your brain will thank you.

  10. Excessive Alcohol Intake – The link to excessive alcohol intake and developing dementia is now clearer than ever before. Check how much you drink each week and be honest with yourself. No more than 14 units a week spread over three days. There are 10 units in a bottle of wine.

  11. Head injury in mid-life – If you are in your mid-life make sure you wear a helmet when you do anything that risks a head injury. Best not to head the football!

  12. Exposure to air pollution in Later Life – This is one we are going to need government help on. But get out in the fresh air as much as you can.

Just like pension saving, we need to be taking action today for our brain health later. So now it’s my turn for the smug face! I have a routine and a plan for my brain health. (I may be a really poor old lady but my chances of dementia will be less – and I have friends with pensions who will feed me!)

If this has convinced you that it’s time to act. Take my course. All you need is a laptop and the ability to commit half an hour a day to reducing your risk find out more here.