Protect your brain by cutting out these dementia risk factors.
Dementia prevalence has been steadily increasing in Singapore. In 2005, there were roughly 22,000 dementia sufferers aged 65 and above. This number is set to more than triple by 2050, with the projected number of dementia sufferers increasing to a staggering 187,000 based on current health and lifestyle trends. These figures from Singapore’s Alzheimer’s Disease Association are certainly worrying, but all hope’s not lost. Ditch these six bad habits and lifestyle choices to slash your risk of getting dementia today. Your brain – and your loved ones – will thank you for it.
1. Your weight
Have you been gaining weight lately? We know it’s hard shedding those extra kilos as the years go by, but here’s another incentive for you to get serious about losing weight: individuals with a high BMI have an increased risk of developing dementia compared to those who were of normal weights. These results were recently published in the Alzheimer’s & Dementia journal and findings were based on data collected from over 1.3 million adults from Europe, the United States and Asia. Each five-unit increase (roughly 14.5kg for someone 1.7m tall) in BMI was associated with a 16-33 per cent higher risk of getting the disease. This result is consistent with that of similar studies. One theory is that excess body fat can lead to changes in the brain that make it more susceptible to degeneration.
2. Being sedentary
Your waistline isn’t the only thing that will suffer if you become a couch potato. Exercising is actually one of the best ways you can stave off dementia. When you work out, your body’s natural levels of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) increase. This is a protein that helps to improve long-term memory. In a study published in the journal JAMA Neurology, researchers found that participants who had an increase in BDNF had a 33 per cent lower risk of developing dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, even when they took other factors like age and sex into consideration. Not sure where to start? Check out these best exercises to do according to your age.
3. Eating ‘bad’ carbs
In a study published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, researchers monitored the diets of 937 elderly volunteers and found that those who filled up on carbs and skimped on fat and protein had a higher risk of developing dementia over time. We’re certainly not saying you should totally eliminate carbs, but you should aim to load up on nutrient-packed options like brown rice or sweet potatoes. Keep your carb intake to less than half of your daily caloric count too, filling the other half with protein and healthy sources of fat (think fatty fish, avocados and nuts).
4. Your proximity to traffic
Being exposed to constant pollution is detrimental to your health as it causes widespread inflammation in your body, including your brain. Results from a Canadian study published last year found that participants who lived within 50m of roads with heavy traffic had a higher likelihood of developing dementia compared to those who lived more than 300m away from busy roads. If you’re living near areas with a lot of traffic pollution and congestion, reduce your risk by keeping the windows closed during peak periods and using an air purifier at home.
5. Your single status
Enjoying singlehood? There’s nothing wrong with that, but new research shows that lifelong singles had a 42 per cent higher risk of getting dementia compared to married folk. Researchers think that this could be because singletons may feel lonelier and be more susceptible to depression, both of which are risk factors for dementia. If you haven’t found your Mr Right, keep your emotional and mental health well taken care of by surrounding yourself with a close community of loved ones. You can also consider volunteering as a way to stay connected and live life more purposefully.
6. You’ve got a weakness for sweet drinks
Time to quit your soda habit. Drinking artificially sweetened soft drinks is associated with an increased risk of getting ischemic stroke, dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, according to findings recently published in the journal Stroke. In the study, participants who regularly consumed artificially sweetened soft drinks were also at a higher risk of diabetes, which is a known risk factor for dementia. Stick to drinking water and unsweetened beverages where possible. If you’d like some flavour, check out these eight natural ways to make plain water taste better.