A diagnosis of dementia can be a heart-breaking experience, for the recipient and their loved ones in equal measure. However, when faced with this difficult prospect there is no need to feel helpless. While there is sadly still no known cure for dementia, there are many lifestyle factors that allow us an element of control. Adopting a balance of all-important acceptance practices, alongside choices that can ease the symptoms and potentially slow the progress of dementia can allow those beholden to the condition to feel that they still hold the reins of their fate and that quality of life will be realised to its greatest potential. Certain medications are often used to counter the impact of dementia, and which of these may be best for your circumstances is best discussed with your physician. Here, however, we will explore some of the day-to-day tweaks that we can make to ensure that the path of dementia is taken at a slow pace.
Harness A Healthful Mediterranean Diet
A growing body of research suggests that a Mediterranean diet holds the power to slow cognitive decline. This may be thanks to the limitation of saturated fats and processed, simple carbohydrates within the diet, which can both be detrimental to the cardiovascular system. It may also be courtesy of the strong nutrient profile of the diet, which will include an array of cognitive-decline-delaying vitamins, protective antioxidants, and anti-inflammatory healthy fats. It is also vital to recognise that the brain is composed of 60% fat – the tissue that requires the material means for regeneration, via our diets – and demands roughly a 20% share of the body’s daily energy expenditure. Under this light, the idea that we must specifically feed our brains makes perfect sense!
Keep That Mind Stimulated
Our brains are filled with connections, with each individual cell capable of directly communicating with roughly 25,000 others. To maximise our brain’s potential, researchers suggest seeking a diversity of stimulation, performing unfamiliar tasks, and learning new skills. We have all come across the idea that brain training exercises such as crossword puzzles or sudoku are good for brain health, but we can expand this idea further. Activities that engage our fine motor skills, such as crafts, or challenge our coordination can be valuable. So too can different types of sensory stimulation, such as sounds, scents, and sights to which we are not usually exposed.
Socialise To Safeguard Grey Matter
As we get older, many of us feel inclined to spend more time alone. We may be feeling unwell, or experience mobility challenges, but the rewards of social contact are far reaching, and not to be neglected! Alongside benefiting our mental health, regular social engagement holds the power to spark new brain connections. In contrast, a three-year study revealed that those who socialise less are vulnerable to faster cognitive decline. Time to reach for that diary and coordinate some get-togethers!
Prioritise Sleep To Boost Brain Function
We might imagine that everything shuts down within our bodies when we sleep, but this could not be further from the truth. Sleep is essential for a broad range of physical functions, and our bodies set about making all sorts of vital repairs during our down-time. Evidence suggests that one of these shut-eye functions is clearing a substance called amyloid from the brain. Accumulation of amyloid plaques within the brain is associated with Alzheimer’s, so making sure our body has time to clarify what it can certainly make sense when it comes to warding off dementia.
Exercise To Slow Symptoms Of Dementia
Getting our blood pumping provides reams of health-related benefits. Within our brains, in particular, a pickup of blood flow means that we increase nutrient delivery to where it is needed most. Study after study shows a positive correlation between moving our bodies and slowing cognitive decline. So, how much exercise should we get? Common guidelines suggest 30 minutes of exercise, three or four times per week, but remember – even a little exercise is better than none!
Factors That May Exacerbate The Symptoms Of Dementia
The various forms of dementia – with Alzheimer’s being the most common, lead to damage within the brain, which sadly reduces function over time. Recent research published in Nature Medicine revealed that, although the damage caused by dementia cannot be reversed, our brains are capable of continuing neurogenesis – the creation of new neurones – as late in life as our ninth decade! This means that, even in our twilight years, the lifestyle choices we make truly can aid or hinder our mental elasticity.
Factors that have been tied to cognitive decline include depression, excessive alcohol consumption, thyroid issues, and vitamin deficiencies. Thankfully, these are all elements within our control. When faced with the immense emotional challenge that dementia poses, we are certainly allowed to feel the range of emotions that such a prospect carries with it. However, we can also embrace all of the positivity and proactivity that will help us handle our diagnosis with self-compassion.
If you or a loved one have received a diagnosis of dementia, planning ahead can alleviate some of the distress that may be faced with, freeing up emotional energy to treasure the present moment. If you would like to explore the care options that may be valuable to your household in the future, the team here at Heritage Independent Living would be delighted to help you understand and navigate what lies ahead. Contact us at your convenience for a no-commitment chat about what our carers can provide.