Dementia: 5 behavioral changes can drastically reduce risk

Dementia: 5 behavioral changes can drastically reduce risk
  • VonJudith Braun


A healthy lifestyle can drastically reduce the risk of dementia. This is shown by the results of a study. Certain factors play an important role in this.

Many people fear developing dementia as they get older. The fear is not unfounded, after all, around 1.6 million people in Germany are currently suffering from the widespread disease – in the future even more will be affected. For the year 2050, the number of diseases was estimated at 150 million in the course of the Alzheimer’s Association conference. However, one is not defenseless against the risk of dementia, but can positively influence it with the right diet, for example. In addition, according to the results of a study, further behavioral changes can drastically reduce the risk of disease.

Dementia: Five behavioral changes can drastically reduce risk

Those who lead an unhealthy lifestyle may have a higher risk of developing dementia.

© Creatista/IMAGO

For her published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ). Study observed researchers living different groups of people between 1993 and 2012. 2,449 people aged at least 65 years from a Chicago district took part in the study. During the study period, Alzheimer’s dementia had been ruled out in 2,110 people, while 339 people developed Alzheimer’s. The scientists performed neurocognitive tests on the subjects every three years (up to six times per person).

The researchers developed a five-point system for the analysis. This enabled them to read the risk factors of the individual groups of people and to evaluate their lifestyle. Because for each category fulfilled, the participants received one point, so that in the best case they achieved five points. So the more points they got, the healthier their lifestyle was, and vice versa. The system included the following five factors:

  • Adhering to a “Brain Healthy Diet”: Mediterranean-DASH Diet Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay, (MIND) Diet
  • High level of cognitive activity (reading, visiting museums, doing crosswords, puzzles, or card and board games)
  • high level of physical activity (more than 140 minutes of exercise per week)
  • Do not smoke
  • low alcohol consumption (up to 15 grams per day for women, up to 30 grams per day for men)

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Preventing dementia and extending lifespan: lifestyle plays a major role

Every ten years, the scientists reassessed how many points a group of people achieved for each age group, gender and for those with and without pre-existing dementia. Depending on the points achieved, the life expectancy of the subjects was evaluated when evaluating the study results. For women aged 65 who scored four or five points, the life expectancy was 24.2 years. In contrast, women of the same age who scored no points or only one point had a 3.1 year shorter life expectancy. In addition, lifestyle had an impact on the development and duration of dementia: ten percent of women with a healthy lifestyle lived with dementia for an average of 2.6 years in the expected lifespan. Women with an unhealthy lifestyle, on the other hand, live with dementia for 4.1 years with a shorter lifespan.

For men, the difference was even more drastic: 65-year-olds with a healthy lifestyle had a life expectancy of 23.1 years, around 5.7 years more than unhealthy men. They also suffered from dementia for an average of 1.4 years out of the 23.1 years. In contrast, unhealthy men spent 2.1 years of the remaining 17.4 years of life with dementia. “The results show impressively that you can actively prevent Alzheimer’s dementia through a healthy lifestyle and that you can increase your lifespan, especially ‘dementia-free’ lifespans,” says Prof. Dr. Hans Christoph Diener, spokesman for the German Society for Neurology (DGN). The healthier the lifestyle, the higher the effect. That’s why it’s worth working on all the factors, according to Diener. “There’s no reason to give up because you know you can’t change a habit. There are still three or four more ‘adjusting screws’ that you can use to increase your life expectancy.”

Lowering the risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s: 12 foods that protect the brain

Hmm, yummy, avocado! The fruit, which from a botanical point of view belongs to the berries, protects against the early onset of Alzheimer’s thanks to its plant-based stigmasterol. They are among the plant foods that are particularly high in fat. But it is purely unsaturated fatty acids that keep you healthy. The fat breakdown is even activated by the contained enzyme lipase. Avocados are rich in folic acid, vitamins K, D, B6 and E as well as potassium and calcium. © LuboIvanko/Imago
Bowls with currants, blueberries, cherries
Dark berries such as black currants and blueberries are not only very healthy thanks to their polyphenols. Their high vitamin C content has also been shown to reduce plaque formation in the vessels, which is considered a risk factor for dementia and Alzheimer’s. A handful of dark berries every day protects the brain! © Westend61/Imago
Eat zucchini regularly too! The green vegetable is rich in calcium, magnesium, iron, B vitamins, vitamin A (provitamin A) and vitamin C. Zucchini not only has an anti-inflammatory effect. It is also said to reduce the growth of cancer cells and delay the onset of Alzheimer’s due to its high levels of stigmasterol. © Alex Salcedo/Imago
Aubergines are not just one of the vegetables that can heal fatty liver. Its plant sterol also protects the brain from dementia and Alzheimer’s. © zhekos/IMAGO
Eating broccoli regularly can prevent or delay Alzheimer’s disease. Because broccoli is rich in antioxidants, which strengthens and protects the brain cells. © monticello/IMAGO
Plate of peas
Peas are one of the protein-rich legumes. 100 grams of fresh green peas contain about 5.4 grams of protein, which is used for muscle building and bone growth. At the same time, the contained folic acid and polyphenols protect the brain. © Image Source/Imago
Bowl of red beans
Beans are food for the nerves in the truest sense of the word. Rich in B vitamins, folic acid and valuable polyphenols, beans can boost brain performance if consumed regularly. B vitamins stimulate communication between cells, increase brain performance and protect against memory disorders. Caution: Boil the beans before eating! More than six beans can cause death, especially in children, due to the toxic protein phasin they contain. © Image Source/Imago
Different types of lenses can be seen (symbol image).
Lentils can be eaten at least three times a week. Because of their B vitamins, folic acid and polyphenols, legumes have a protective effect on the brain. © YAY Images / Imago
Nuts are especially good for the brain. Walnuts, for example, are rich in antioxidants, which means they protect against harmful substances and can thus prevent protein deposits in the brain. In this way, Alzheimer’s can be prevented. The progression of an already existing Alzheimer’s disease can also be slowed down. © C3 Pictures/Imago
Olive oil lowers blood pressure and harmful LDL cholesterol in the blood, reducing the risk of arteriosclerosis.
In addition to zucchini, eggplant, broccoli, nuts and blueberries, olives and olive oil are also among the foods that can prevent Alzheimer’s. The polyphenols contained in olive oil protect and strengthen the brain cells. According to the “German Heart Foundation”, olive oil has been shown to reduce the risk of deposits in the vessels, arteriosclerosis. Researchers suspect that the risk of Alzheimer’s increases with existing hardening of the arteries. © Panthermedia/Imago
Salmon is one of the foods with a high content of omega-3 fatty acids, which can not only lower too much LDL cholesterol. According to the Alzheimer Research Initiative e. V © Martin G.Dr. Baumgae/Imago
Cod fillet with rosemary sprig in the frying pan.
Cod fish is also one of the particularly healthy fish: highly recommended for people with hypothyroidism, thanks to the high iodine content, and supports cell renewal to prevent dementia and Alzheimer’s. Eat the recommended fish once or twice a week to boost brain defenses and improve energy metabolism. © Shotshop/Imago

This article only contains general information on the respective health topic and is therefore not intended for self-diagnosis, treatment or medication. In no way does it replace a visit to the doctor. Unfortunately, our editors are not allowed to answer individual questions about clinical pictures.

Header image: © Creatista/IMAGO


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