Dementia is the seventh leading cause of death among all diseases and one of the leading causes of disability and dependency among the elderly.
One of the diseases that many of us fear most is dementia. It is such a deeply traumatic and disruptive illness, for you and those around you. But according to the World Health Organization (WHO), more than 55 million people live with dementia worldwide, and there are nearly 10 million new cases each year.
We are all keen to find ways to prevent disease as much as we can, but there are many things we do every day that increase our risk. Many know the benefits of using our brains and eating foods like blueberries, but snacking on sugary snacks and sitting at a desk all day can increase your chances of dementia.
Here are seven things to stop doing right now to help stave off dementia.
1. Drinking fizzy drinks
It turns out that a can of coke or too much lemonade can increase your chances of developing dementia. People who consume the highest amounts of ultra-processed foods, such as fizzy drinks and chocolate, may have a higher risk of developing dementia than those who eat the lowest amounts, according to a new study by Huiping Li of the University Medical Tianjin in China, published in the journal Neurology, has indicated.
2. Devouring a full English
Unfortunately, most of our favorite English staples like sausages, ketchup and baked beans are highly processed, making them a huge risk factor if consumed too often.
Li, the author of the new study, says: “These foods may also contain food additives, or molecules from packaging or produced during heating, all of which have been shown in other studies to have negative effects on the abilities of thought and memory.
“Our research not only found that ultra-processed foods are associated with an increased risk of dementia, but found that replacing them with healthy options can reduce the risk of dementia.”
3. Eat cookies and chocolate
Yes, too much chocolate and things like cookies won’t do you any favors either, once again, because they’re highly processed and sugary.
In fact, according to the study, for every 10% increase in daily intake of ultra-processed foods, people had a 25% increased risk of dementia. So even having a few extra cookies or chocolates at work each day can increase your risk.
4. Have a desk job
We all know that being sunk at your desk, staring at a screen all day isn’t great for your health, but it turns out that sedentary jobs actually increase your risk of dementia.
Dr Sara Imarisio, Head of Research at Alzheimer’s Research UK, says: “Our brains are incredibly complex, responsible for our memory as well as what we think, feel and do.
“Keeping our brains healthy as we age can help prevent diseases like Alzheimer’s, which physically attack brain cells, destroying the very essence of who we are.
“We know that being physically and socially active can help us feel happier, healthier and more positive overall.
“Lifting weights and running marathons aren’t for everyone, but there are plenty of ways to stay physically active in our lives.”
Pointing to further research published in the Neurology Journal, by Huan Song of Sichuan University in China, Imarisio continues: “This self-reported study adds to evidence that finding something to stick to that keeps you physically and socially active is likely to get the most out of your health benefits, rather than the activity itself.
“Researchers found that even people with a high genetic risk of Alzheimer’s, the most common cause of dementia, could benefit from staying physically active.”
5. Not making an effort to see family and friends
Social interaction is a very important way to keep your brain sharp and reduce your risk of dementia. If you avoid it, you are putting your health at risk.
According to Song’s research, people who were highly involved in activity patterns, including frequent exercise and daily visits from family and friends, had a 35% and 15% lower risk, respectively, compared to people who they were less engaged.
6. Avoid jobs
According to the same study, doing housework is associated with a 21% reduction in the risk of dementia. Perhaps just increasing brain activity a little, even by washing or changing the sheets, can help keep the mind active.
7. Give up playing an instrument
Don’t stop playing an instrument, and maybe start playing one, even if you’ve never played it before.
According to several studies, musicians are 64% less likely to develop mild cognitive impairment or dementia.
There may be a lot to avoid, but it’s empowering to be able to take our own health into our own hands and live a healthier, happier life, while protecting ourselves from the risk of dementia.
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