Every six minutes someone in Australia is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or another dementia-related disease. By 2050, this number is expected to increase to one every 1.4 minutes, but there are things we can do now to prevent our likelihood of falling into the grips of the brain disease and losing our minds.
“Research tells us that possibly half the cases of Alzheimer’s disease are preventable,” Suha Ali from Alzheimer’s Australia says.
Currently there are 332,000 Australians living with dementia, but this number is expected to rise to 400,000 in the next 10 years.
“The only way we can possibly make a dent in the really frightening numbers is by taking positive steps towards our health,” Ms Ali says.
In an effort to characterise the disease, website Fight Alzheimer’s Save Australia reveals the following numbers:
• Without a medical breakthrough the number of people with dementia is expected to hit 900,000 by 2050
• There are 24,700 people under the age of 65 and as young as 30 who’ve been diagnosed with Younger Onset Dementia
• Dementia is the third leading cause of death in Australia and there is currently no cure
• By 2029, there will be a shortage of 150,000 carers for Australians with dementia
• If the numbers continue to rise, spending on dementia will outpace that of any other health condition by 2060
Ms Ali encourages people to shift to a more brain-healthy lifestyle at the youngest age as possible to curb these growing numbers.
“We encourage people in their 20s and 30s to start thinking about their long term health issues,” she says. “There is definitely emerging evidence that shows that lifelong brain healthy habits can help to reduce ones risk of dementia.”
With no cure in sight for Alzheimer’s, Ali says there are “five simple steps to maximise your brain health.”
All the steps have been researched and proven through scientific evidence on their positive effects toward preventive action for Alzheimer’s.
STEP ONE: Look after your heart
All these elements of heart health have been shown to decrease the risk of dementia.
• Maintain healthy levels of cholesterol, blood sugar, blood pressure
• Eat healthy foods like fish, with plenty of omega fatty acids
• Keep your weight in check
• Quit smoking
STEP TWO: Be physically active
Physical activity does amazing things for brain health by increasing blood flow to the brain and increase brain volume.
• Moving, getting out and about
• Get 30 to 45 minutes of physical activity once a day
• Don’t stay in the home, walk around your block and neighbourhood
Being mentally active can help produce brain plasticity, which is the brains ability to change physically, functionally and chemically. This doesn’t mean doing Sudoku or a crossword puzzle everyday. You must challenge your brain, fire up the neurons and generate new blood cells.
• Learn a language
• Take up a new hobby or interest
• Learn to play a new instrument
• Study new subjects in mathematics, history
• Adult education classes
• Learn how to paint
STEP FOUR: Have a healthy diet
Evidence suggests that a healthy diet leads to a healthier brain.
• Eat a lot of veggies
• Eat a lot of fruits
• Avoid saturated fats
• Eat oily fish and get omega-3s in your system
• Take things from all food groups and maintain a balanced diet
• Eat healthy fats
• Have less take-away and know what’s in your food
STEP FIVE: Be socially active
Being socially active has shown to have positive results on reducing the risk of dementia.
• Go out with friends
• Socialise on the weekend or go out and have a walk after work with friends of families
• Have a game of tennis and talk
If you combine mental, health and social activities it amplifies the benefits for better brain health, according to Ali.
Also, if you would like to know more about the things you can to do maintain healthy brain levels, there is a Brainy App available for smartphones.
You can go to www.yourbrainmatters.org.au and take brain health challenges and challenge your brain for 21-days.