Dieting and Dementia: How Your Diet Can Reduce the Risk of Dementia
Many Australians are concerned with eating well and exercising to maintain a healthy weight range, encourage longevity and generally feel good about themselves. However, what many don’t realise is that a good diet can reduce the risk of dementia, and fight off a range of other degenerative diseases. Dieting and dementia are intrinsically linked, and here, we take a look at some simple things that you can do to give yourself the best chance, and reduce the risk of dementia.
Dementia in Australia
Dementia is a term used to classify a range of diseases which are characterised by impaired brain function. Two of the most well-recognised forms of dementia are Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease. While it is not a result of aging, nor necessarily a natural part of aging, dementia does become more common among older people. Generally, dementia onset is gradual, and becomes worse over time, with very little chance for recovery. In fact, diseases under the ‘dementia’ umbrella do not currently have a cure, and the damage done to the brain is irreversible.
Dementia symptoms increase in severity over time, but sufferers tend to first present with minor afflictions such as difficulty recalling names or words and general absent-mindedness. Over time, sufferers may begin to have difficulty in performing simple day-to-day tasks, and even be unable to care for themselves. Dementia is a heartbreaking condition to witness, for both the sufferer and their family and friends.
The number of Australians suffering with dementia is expected to reach 400,000 by 2020, and an astonishing 900,000 by 2050 according to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, thanks to our aging population. This alarming statistical rise in numbers is echoed around the world. In 2015, one in ten people over the age of 65 in Australia suffered with dementia, and that figure rose to three in ten for those aged over 85.
Eating well for your brain
Each form of dementia has its own set of risk factors, and family history is among the most significant of these. While there is nothing that can be done to reduce your hereditary risk of dementia, there are a number of lifestyle factors which have been found to contribute to the onset of dementia. The good news is that by addressing these lifestyle factors, each of us (whether we have a family history or not) can work to reduce the risk of dementia.
One of the most important risk factors across a range of dementia types is diet and weight. In fact, Alzheimer’s Australia lists high cholesterol, diabetes and cardiovascular risk (from hypertension, heart disease and even smoking) as the major risk factors for developing Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia. A study has found that those with diabetes have a 65% greater chance of developing Alzheimer’s than those without.
Alzheimer’s Australia, via their ‘Your Brain Matters’ website, aims to tackle the issue of dementia among Australians by promoting ‘brain health’. Their top tips for reducing the risk of dementia and maintaining good brain health include:
- Look after your heart
- Do physical activity
- Mentally challenge your brain
- Follow a healthy diet
- Enjoy social activity
As you can see, 3 of the 5 steps to maintaining a healthy brain and reduce the risk of dementia relate to physical health. Here, we focus on diet, and how maintaining healthy eating habits can reduce your risk.
What foods should I/shouldn’t I eat to reduce the risk of dementia?
Whilst there is still a great deal of research needed to determine particular foods which will help to reduce the risk of dementia, it is widely understood that saturated fats play a role in increasing your risk. Foods such as these are examples of those found in a diet rich with saturated fats:
- Fried takeaway food
Foods that have been associated with a lower risk of dementia include:
- Good fats, like those found in fish, avocado and olive oil
- Antioxidant-rich foods like tomatoes, pinto beans, kidney beans, cranberries and blueberries, oranges and even pecan nuts
- Foods which reduce inflammation such as those containing omega 3 fatty acids (oily fish, walnuts)
While many of us understand that eating a well-balanced diet, full of fruits, vegetables and lean proteins can help us to lead a healthier lifestyle, many of us do not realise the impacts of our diets to our brain health. In today’s busy lifestyle, even the best intentions can fall by the wayside as we juggle work, family and social commitments. Unfortunately, despite our desire to lead a healthy life, our diet can suffer as a result of our struggles with busy lifestyle, lack of motivation, and even a lack of understanding around how to maintain a good diet.
There is help
Fortunately, there is help available. If you’re concerned with eating well, living a healthy lifestyle and warding off diseases such as dementia, heart disease, diabetes and more, you do not need to go it alone. The best thing you can do to reduce your risk is to get started sooner, rather than later. Specially designed weight loss programs such as ours are built by a team of experts to give you a holistic healthy lifestyle solution, and not only reduce your waistline, but reduce the risk of dementia as well.
Our range of wellness and weight loss programs are tailored to suit your individual needs, and address your diet and exercise demons. Including hypnotherapy, counselling, fitness coaching and nutritional guidance; these programs can not only help you to maintain your weight for the long term, but can set you up with a lifestyle plan which will help to reduce the risk of dementia and a broad range of other diseases.
To find out more about how we can help you to start leading a healthier lifestyle and give yourself the best chance against dementia, get in touch today.