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Five Lifestyle Tweaks to Help Ward Off Dementia

Some studies show a link between a solid social network and a low risk of dementia.

Some studies show a link between a solid social network and a low risk of dementia.

By Shelley Emling

New research shows a dramatic increase in deaths from Alzheimer’s disease, with the number climbing from 16.5 per 100,000 Americans to 25.4 per 100,000 between 1999 and 2014. Specifically, some 5.2 million Americans suffer from the disease, with nearly 94,000 dying of it in 2014. That number is only expected to rise as the elderly population grows. That’s why it’s more important than ever to do what you can to keep Alzheimer’s at bay. Here are five lifestyle tweaks that could help you ward off dementia.

1. Walk more
Simply adding a one-hour walk to your schedule, three times a week, can reap big rewards when it comes to dementia. A new study out of the University of British Columbia in Canada found that walking could boost brain function in those with vascular dementia.

2. Socialize more
The connection between loneliness and Alzheimer’s isn’t clear-cut, but some studies do show a link between a solid social network and a low risk of dementia. In one four-year study of 800 people 75 and older, lonely individuals were more than twice as likely to develop dementia symptoms than those who enjoyed a close circle of friends and family members.

3. Protect your head
The Alzheimer’s Association doesn’t mince words: “There appears to be a strong link between future risk of Alzheimer’s and serious head trauma, especially when injury involves loss of consciousness.”
Therefore, it’s imperative that you protect your head by wearing a seat belt, using a helmet when participating in sports and making sure your home is fall-proof.

To help make sure your home is fall-proof, take the following steps, all from A Place for Mom, a free senior-care referral service:
• Make sure floors are uncluttered.
• Remove or tack down all scatter rugs.
• Avoid using slippery wax on floors.
• Slip-proof the tub, and make sure the bath mat has a nonslip bottom.
• Remove electrical or telephone cords from traffic areas.

4. Be more mindful of your diet
First, make sure your diet is rich in vitamin D, which is critical for robust cognitive function. A six-year study involving 1,600 people linked Alzheimer’s disease with vitamin D deficiency. “Those who were severely deficient in vitamin D were more than twice as likely to develop Alzheimer’s and dementia than those who had adequate levels,” according to an Alzheimer’s.net article on the study.

5. Get more quality sleep
You may be getting sleep, but are you getting enough sleep? If you aren’t sleeping at least seven to eight hours a night, you could be setting yourself up for an array of health problems, including dementia. One recent study indicates that a lack of sleep may actually lead to Alzheimer’s. Why? Because a lack of sleep means less time for your nocturnal cleaning system to work. This system — also known as the glymphatic system — removes proteins called amyloid beta that can turn into the plaques that contribute to Alzheimer’s and dementia — all while you sleep.

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