Dementia and Alzheimer’s: how a healthy, active lifestyle can help

With the recent sad news about Barbara Windsor having Alzheimer’s disease I thought now maybe a good time to discuss memory loss. I am not going to go into detail because this is such a huge subject, and there are so many different types of dementia.

For example: Alzheimer’s, Dementia with Lewy Bodies, Vascular Dementia, Young Onset Dementia and Mild Cognitive Impairment…..and many, many more types of memory loss are all covered by the umbrella term of ‘dementia’. People understandably get confused.

Types of Dementia

What is dementia?

‘Dementia’ is a ‘syndrome’ in that it covers a set of  related ‘symptoms’. Symptoms may include memory loss, reduced speed of thinking, and difficulty with problem solving and language.

We all get times when we are a bit forgetful, and this may be due to stress, tiredness, being ill, some medications, excess alcohol and so on. However, if it affects your daily life, or others close to you seem concerned and are commenting on your memory, it is probably time that you went to see a healthcare professional.

Dementia can also affect how one speaks, thinks and behaves. It can make you not want to go out, it can make you lose compassion, cause character changes, and it can cause hallucinations.  So if you are concerned seek advice.

Sadly, as has been well documented, there is no cure, but it can be slowed down. This is where physical activity, diet and ones general health and wellbeing come into play.

Benefits of being physically active

Physical activity can improve the quality of life for people with dementia, at all stages of the disease. It is thought that exercise may benefit brain cells directly by increasing blood and oxygen flow, and it is well documented that exercise has significant benefits for the cardiovascular system. Being physically active will also improve and maintain mobility, strength, functionality and thereby ones independence. This in turn will help improve ones self-esteem, confidence and general mood.

Physical activity can also benefit if it is a social activity because it is thought that keeping social connections might reduce cognitive decline, possibly due to the mental stimulation involved.

As with most medical conditions though, always seek the advice of a healthcare professional before embarking on any new type of exercise regime, and try and seek advice from a Registered Personal Trainer who has the appropriate qualifications.

Diet and dementia

A ‘Mediterranean’ style diet is advocated for reducing the risks of developing dementia. This is a diet rich in fruit, vegetables, cereals, pulses and oily fish. Reducing red meat, saturated fats and sugar has also been suggested as being beneficial. Staying well hydrated is also important.

Foods that may help with dementia (BBC)

How to reduce your risk of developing dementia

Dementia: NHS

blueberries to use

Lifestyle  and dementia

Additionally it is recommended that alcohol consumption is reduced, and if you smoke – to stop. keeping your self mentally active may also help- whether this is by crosswords, puzzles, socialising, reading or watching stimulating television- anything that gets your brain cells working!

Do check out the links provided above from The Alzheimer’s Society UK and the NHS they are crammed full with useful information, support and contact numbers.

 

 

 

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