Apr 17, 2018 by Stephanie Howe - Owner, Comfort Keepers
Minimizing Your Loved One's Risk for Dementia
As we age, our risk of developing dementia and Alzheimer's disease increases. Currently, more than 5 million people in the U.S. have some form of dementia, and someone in America will develop the disease every 66 seconds.
As your parent or loved one approaches their senior years, you may be concerned about their risk for cognitive disorders. There is currently no cure for dementia and Alzheimer's disease, but there are some research-backed ways to help minimize your loved one's risk of developing these conditions. Here's how you can help provide dementia care and prevention.
Encourage Regular Exercise
Doctors can't say it enough--exercise helps your body and mind stay fit. Current research also shows that exercise can help delay or improve dementia. The American Geriatrics Society reviewed 19 studies on exercise and cognitive decline. They found that aerobic exercise had a protective effect on the brain.
For seniors, the Centers for Disease Control recommends at least two-and-a-half hours of moderate aerobic activity every week, combined with at least two days of muscle-strengthening activities. Examples of aerobic activities for seniors include brisk walking, biking, or dancing. If your loved one is not currently active, they should begin an exercise program slowly. Consult his or her doctor with questions about your loved one's ability to participate in exercise. A Comfort Keepers caregiver can help your loved one stay active by exercising with them and encouraging their progress.
Stick to a Healthy Diet
Ever heard of brain food? Foods that are good for brain health may help reduce your loved one's risk for dementia and Alzheimer's. According to the Physicians' Committee for Responsible Medicine, there are several types of food that can help prevent or delay cognitive decline. Plant-based foods such as fruits, vegetables, beans, and whole grains are crucial to a healthy diet, and excellent food for the brain. Foods rich in vitamin E are also recommended, such as almonds, spinach, avocados, and sunflower seeds. A 2017 study showed that eating foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids may help to prevent dementia. Omega-3 foods include salmon, sardines, soybeans, and walnuts.
Foods to avoid include saturated and trans fats. Encourage your loved one to eat animal products, such as meat and dairy, in moderation. Comfort Keepers can help your loved one prepare nutritious meals based on their tastes and dietary recommendations.
Feeling a sense of connection with others through socialization is important for people in all stages of life, but especially in the senior years. A study published in the American Journal of Public Health found that elderly women were less likely to experience cognitive decline if they had a large social network.
An in-home caregiver can help your loved one stay social by providing them with companionship. A caregiver can also help your loved one attend events in their community, such as classes at a senior center or church services.
Encourage Mental Activities
Exercise isn't just for the body--it's good for the brain too. A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that participating in mental activities such as board games and reading helps to decrease the risk of dementia for seniors. Additional examples of brain-boosting activities include doing crossword or Sudoku puzzles or playing a musical instrument.
Encourage your loved one to stay mentally active by providing them with a variety of mentally-stimulating items. When you're not able to interact with them, a caregiver can also help your loved one by playing board games or conversing with them.
Ask Your Loved One to Quit Smoking
A 2011 study found that smokers are around 79 percent more likely to develop Alzheimer's or dementia. If your loved one stops smoking now, they can reduce their risk for cognitive decline, as well as many other health conditions.
It isn't easy to stop smoking, especially for seniors who've been smoking for most of their lives. The American Cancer Society offers tips to help your loved one quit tobacco. Quitting cigarettes is one of the best decisions your loved one can make for the health of their body and mind.