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Brain check-in tool informs public about how to reduce dementia risk

Alzheimer’s UK have developed a new tool which informs people about how to keep their brain healthy during their 40s and 50s and reduce the risk of dementia later in life

Alzheimer’s UK have developed a new tool which informs people about how to keep their brain healthy during their 40s and 50s and reduce the risk of dementia later in life.

While many cases of dementia can’t be prevented, Alzheimer’s UK says that up to 40% of cases are linked to factors we can influence, such as our diet and the things we do to challenge our brains.

The Big Brain Health Check-in therefore encourages people of all ages, but particularly those in midlife, to start making positive lifestyle changes in order to protect their brain.

Professor Jon Schott, Chief Medical Officer of Alzheimer’s UK, says looking after your heart, staying mentally sharp and keeping connected with loved ones can all help to reduce the risk of dementia.

Heart health

Research shows that exercising regularly and eating a healthy and balanced diet not only benefits your heart, but your brain too.

This is because staying active helps our heart to pump blood around the body, delivering oxygen and nutrients to the brain and reducing damage to small blood vessels. Exercise also releases endorphins which help to reduce stress and improve mental wellbeing.

Keeping blood pressure in check, quitting (or not starting) smoking, drinking responsibly, keeping cholesterol to a healthy level and managing diabetes are all ways to keep our brain and body healthy.

The charity highlights a study which shows that people who ate healthily, exercised regularly and did activities that challenged their brains lived longer. Out of the participants who did go on to develop Alzheimer’s, those with healthier lifestyles tended to do so at an older age.

Challenging your brain

Regularly doing mentally stimulating activities has also been shown to protect the brain from dementia, and one study showed that those who regularly challenged their brains by reading, writing and playing games developed Alzheimer’s about five years later than those who didn’t.

Although it is not yet clear which activities are the most beneficial, the charity says doing activities that you enjoy is key. This could be reading, playing board games, doing puzzles or learning a new language.

This can also boost mental wellbeing, helping you to sleep better, feel happier, healthier and more relaxed.

The importance of socialising

Many studies have identified links between loneliness, social isolation and decline in memory and thinking skills, according to Alzheimer’s UK.

An analysis of several studies found that social isolation could be a factor in around 4% of dementia cases, and another study found that people who were socially isolated were 26% more likely to develop dementia.

While it isn’t clear whether social isolation is a risk factors for dementia or whether it’s a symptom of the condition, the charity says keeping connected is always good for brain health.

Alzheimer’s UK therefore urge people with hearing difficulties to seek support so they can continue to stay connected with their family and friends. Hearing loss is also associated with biological factors such as inflammation and a lack of blood flow to the brain, both of which are associated with an increased risk of dementia.

Just one third of people aware they can lower their risk of dementia

The charity says two thirds of the population are unaware that it is possible to lower your risk of dementia, and they encourage everyone to complete the Big Brain Health Check-in.

They note that the Check-in is not an assessment or any sort of diagnostic test, but it gives people a better idea of which lifestyle changes they could make to benefit their brain health.

You can complete the Check-in here.

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