Tips on how to prevent dementia as we grow older

Aging is inevitable, but there are ways to improve our ‘health span’ and prevent dementia

Worldwide, 47.5 million people live with dementia, including Alzheimer’s, and more than 400,000 Canadians over 65 currently live with brain disease. As our population ages, the number of individuals affected is only expected to increase.

Dr. Howard Chertkow, the Chair of Cognitive Neurology and Innovation at Baycrest’s Rotman Research Institute shares some of his most important tips to reducing our risk of dementia.

Make sure you get some ZZZs

Life doesn’t always allow us to get a full night’s rest but, on average, we need to get more. Those of us who consistently get less than six hours of shut-eye a night have a higher risk of Alzheimers.

Exercise to get your heart rate up

Physical inactivity and related conditions like hypertension can increase your risk of dementia. So, don’t be a couch potato — get out there and do 140 minutes of moderate exercise every week.

Clean your teeth!

Dental hygiene is more important to your overall health than you think. Removing harmful bacteria from your mouth is good for your brain. So, Dr. Chertkow, along with most dentists, suggests flossing at least once a day and brushing three times a day.

Eat a healthier diet

A poor diet leads to a wide range of health issues, some of which are linked to dementia. Eat more fruits and vegetables, and consume less red meat. Some research recommends a Mediterranean diet, as it’s been shown to decrease cognitive decline as we age.

Avoid drugs and alcohol

While most of us enjoy the odd tipple on a weekend, Dr. Chertkow notes that alcohol is toxic to the brain and drinking too much can increase your risk of developing dementia. “Half a glass of wine a day is probably beneficial,” says Chertkow, due to antioxidants, but binges should be avoided.

He says it’s also best to avoid some drugs and medications that affect the brain. Sleeping pills or sedatives aren’t great.

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Get your hearing checked ...and do something about it

It may be surprising to ‘hear,’ but hearing loss can be bad for the brain and not using hearing aids when needed can increase the risk of dementia. If you can’t hear others properly, it can affect you intellectually, so Dr. Chertkow recommends that you get your hearing checked and stay in-tune with your surroundings.

Stay socially active and stimulate your brain

Seeing friends and relatives keeps you socially involved and your brain ticking. So get out there and mingle, make some new friends along the way and don’t stay at home by yourself.

It’s also a good idea to engage in brain-stimulating activities with others. Go to a lecture, read a book or take up a new hobby. Finding something that challenges you and makes you learn new things helps to protect your cognitive function. So why not take up that language class? Not only will it improve brain health, but you’ll also learn something new, which is helpful at any age!

Watch the video above for all of Dr. Chertkow’s tips for preventing dementia and Alzheimer’s.

Watch Aging Well Suzuki Style on The Nature of Things.

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Aging Well Suzuki Style

Nature of Things