Safe to say, the older you get, the more you worry about dementia, both in yourself and in elderly loved ones. And with 47 million people worldwide suffering from dementia, a number that is expected to more than double by the year 2050, there is certainly cause for concern. But dementia is something that may be preventable, starting at a young age. A report published in July 2017 by the Lancet Commission on Dementia Prevention and Care reveals nine specific things you can do, right now, and even for your children, to help lower the risk or even help those who are already showing signs of dementia.
By reviewing all existing research, the international experts who wrote the Lancet report found that one in three cases of dementia are preventable by taking steps throughout life to eliminate risk factors. They were able to summarize all evidence-based research and provide the following advice, most of which is similar to most expert advice for living a long, healthy and happy life:
For those who are already showing signs of dementia, particularly agitation and aggression, the researchers found evidence that social contact, group activity and other environmental, psychological and social interventions were more helpful than antipsychotic medical treatments that are often used to treat these symptoms. They also found that exercise and group cognitive stimulation therapy, a form of therapy that includes games and creative activities that stimulate the minds of people with mild to moderate dementia, can help improve cognitive abilities.
Other lifestyle factors, such as diet and alcohol use, may also affect the risk of developing dementia. Although these lifestyle factors were not considered in this report, the authors believe that following a Mediterranean-style diet that is low in animal products and includes plenty of fruits, vegetables and fish, and drinking no more than a moderate amount alcoholic beverages not only increases overall health prospects and life expectancy, but may also be important to maintaining cognitive skills as we age.
Livingston G, Sommerlad A, Orgeta V. et al. Dementia preventions, intervention, and care. The Lancet Commissions. July 20, 2017
Clare L, Wu Y-T, Teale JC, et al. Potentially modifiable lifestlyle factors, cognitive reserve, and cognitive function in later life: A cross-sectional study. PLOS Medicine. March 21, 2017;1-14.