40% of dementia cases caused by 12 modifiable lifestyle habits; Oxford experts share healthy tips – Times of India

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The Modifying Dementia Risk group, part of the Department of Psychiatry, Oxford University has found the impact of 12 risk factors on dementia and cognitive decline.

The group, led by Dr Sarah Bauermeister and supported by Dementias Platform UK and Alzheimer’s Research UK, has investigated the impact of the 12 risk factors on later life dementia and cognitive decline, as identified in the Lancet 2020 commission.

The researchers found that the following are the potential risk factors that help in the progression of dementia:

Lack of education
Traumatic brain injury (TBI)
Hearing loss
Physical inactivity
Social isolation
Air pollution

In view of the rising cases of dementia, which as per the Lancet report might increase to 152 million by 2050, experts at Oxford have recommended the following eight lifestyle habits.

The experts agree with the evidence which says that the Mediterranean diet is excellent for brain health.

“This is partly because this type of diet is low in saturated fat and sugar, so reduces the risk of conditions like diabetes and obesity that are in turn risk factors for dementia,” they say.

The Mediterranean diet is one of the most popular diets of recent times which is rich in seasonal vegetables, fruit, grains, unsaturated fat, olive oil, fish and beans.

“Alcohol has a complex relationship with dementia,” the Oxford experts say.

Professor John Gallacher, from the Department of Psychiatry, recommends limiting alcohol intake to seven units a week to account for both sides of the coin.

Experts have stressed on the “long-established link between smoking and dementia”.

Smoking speeds up the progression of dementia by causing mini-strokes that underpin vascular dementia, they explain.

Citing evidence, which are actually huge in number, the experts have said, “exercise reduces decline in thinking and memory skills in people with Alzheimer’s disease, and improves their physical and mental wellbeing.”

Health experts recommend at least 150 minutes of exercise per week.

To keep the brain active is to be socially active, the experts say.

“Even small amounts of social interaction can make a positive difference: interacting with someone else for just 10 minutes before taking memory and attention tasks improved people’s results,” the experts recommend.

Another interesting habit the experts have talked about is participation in intellectual leisure activities.

This includes, they say, reading, attending a club, manual hobbies like needlework, and arts-related activities like visiting galleries or theaters.

Talking about hearing loss as a potential risk factor of dementia, as found by the Lancet report, the experts suggest wearing a hearing aid if the hearing ability is compromised.

This is most probably one of the important yet ignored aspects of brain health.

“Sleep is crucial for creating long-lasting memories, and healthy adults should get seven to nine hours of sleep each night,” the experts recommend.

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