Dementia: Dr Sara on benefits of being in nature
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Although there are some risk factors you can’t change, there are many that you can. This will not mean that you definitely do not develop the condition, but can make it less likely. There are five more common types of dementia and these are Alzheimer’s disease, vascular dementia, dementia with Lewy bodies, frontotemporal dementia and mixed dementia. By 2025, Dementia UK reports more than one million people will be living with dementia in the UK.
The Alzheimer’s Society notes that there are many risk factors for dementia.
It states: “The risk of developing the condition depends on a mixture of these and varies from person to person. Some of these are factors you can’t change, such as age. But there are lots of factors that can be changed.”
The charity explains that mid-life – from your 40s into your early 60s – is a good time to start taking steps to reduce your risk of developing dementia, though it is helpful to take steps at any age.
“The brain changes that cause dementia can start years or even decades before symptoms develop. If you live a healthy lifestyle now, you are reducing the chances that these brain changes will happen,” it adds.
The charity says that eating a diet that lacks a good range of healthy foods may increase a person’s risk of dementia.
It adds: “There are many possible reasons. For example, an unhealthy diet increases the risk of high blood pressure which is a risk factor for dementia.
“Too much salt (more than a teaspoon per day) is also linked with higher risk of dementia.”
Dementia Australia says diet is one factor researchers are investigating for its role in reducing the risk of dementia.
It suggests that although there are certain foods to limit, research currently suggests that a healthy balanced diet is important for everyone, to help prevent other health problems.
Indeed, studies have shown that people with high intakes of saturated and trans fats in their diet “have a higher risk of developing dementia”, while people with a diet including unsaturated, unhydrogenated fats “have a lower risk”.
The organisation states: “Foods high in saturated fat include butter, lard, meat, full-fat dairy products, coconut oil, palm oil and chocolate. Trans fats are used widely in some fast food, snack foods, fried foods and commercially baked goods like cakes and biscuits.”
It adds: “Try to limit the intake of these foods and choose low fat varieties wherever possible.”
Despite there being some foods to limit, there are also some foods you may need to include more of, to help reduce your risk.
It says that a “higher intake of monounsaturated and poly-unsaturated fats has been associated with a lower risk of developing dementia”.
This is because these fats may increase levels of HDL cholesterol, “which may help protect brain cells”.
Statistics from the NHS show one in 14 people over the age of 65 have dementia.
The Alzheimer’s Society says: “Regularly drinking above the recommended amounts of alcohol exposes the brain to high levels of toxic substances that can damage nerve cells over time.
“The recommended amount of alcohol per week is 14 units, ideally spread over at least three days rather than all at once.
“Drinking very high levels of alcohol over a long period of time also increases a person’s risk of Korsakoff’s syndrome and alcohol-related brain damage, which increases the risk of dementia.”
It adds that physical inactivity is closely linked to a higher risk of heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes, which are all risk factors for dementia .
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