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GET PHYSICALLY ACTIVE
There is an ever increasing body of evidence to suggest that
exercise can help prevent or slow the rate of cognitive decline.
Physical activity stimulates blood flow, prompts the release of
endorphins in the brain, and causes the secretion of chemicals
that stimulate neuronal growth.
“Evidence suggests that exercise might be more effective
than available dementia drugs when it comes to alleviating
symptoms and slowing dementia progression,” Dr. Duffy says.
Aside from benefits around memory and thinking, exercise
can also help modify other risk factors associated with rapid
cognitive decline including high cholesterol, high blood
pressure and diabetes.
FOLLOW A HEALTHY DIET
A good diet can play a vital role in maintaining brain health
and cognitive function. Recent research suggests that the
traditional Mediterranean diet is associated with the lowest
dementia risk and slowest disease progression.
“This diet is high in vegetables, fruits, legumes, lean meats
and dairy, while being low in sugar and the saturated fats
found in fried food and cakes,” says Dr Duffy. “Conversely,
the Omega 3 and unsaturated fats found in oily fish and olive
oil can help reduce inflammation in the brain and promote the
growth of new brain cells.”
KEEP YOUR BRAIN ACTIVE
Higher levels of education, occupational complexity and
mental activity throughout life are associated with better
brain function and a reduced risk of cognitive decline.
Research suggests challenging the brain can help build new
brain cells and strengthen the connections between them,
so remaining mentally active is also important for people
already diagnosed with dementia.
“As we age, it is important not to fall into the trap of doing
the same activities over and over again,” says Professor
Naismith. “Our brains benefit most when we are tackling
something challenging and unfamiliar. That could include
learning a new language, signing up to do some volunteer
work or taking up a musical instrument.”
There are lots of things you can do to improve ‘sleep hygiene’
and therefore optimise the quality of your sleep.
• As our bodies prepare for sleep, we experience an increase
in melatonin and a drop in body temperature. This is what
makes us feel tired, so it’s important not to increase your
body temperature before bed.
• Limit distractions by removing your phone, laptop or T V
from your bedroom.
• Try to get up at the same time every day whenever
possible. Once awake, expose yourself to a bright light.
• If you wake up during the night, don’t lay awake and
ruminate. Get up, keep lights low and sit quietly. Once you
feel sleepy, go back to bed.
• Avoid sleeping pills; they do not provide a long-term solution.
• Limit naps to 45 minutes and make sure you don’t nap
beyond early afternoon.
• As we age, we all expereince lighter, shorter sleep cycles.
Some sleep changes are normal.
• Sleep, stress, anxiety and depression are closely linked.
If you start to experience sleep problems, it is worth
exploring contributing psychological factors.
• Older people should be aware of sleep-disordered
breathing. Medical conditions such as obstructive sleep
apnoea are common causes of daytime sleepiness and can
cause damage to the brain. Watch out for snoring and talk
to your GP if your sleep is not refreshing.
There is an appropriate exercise regime for everyone.
Speak to your health professional before embarking on
any change to your exercise routine. You can also speak
to your GP about accessing an exercise physiologist.
They can work out a program that meets your needs.
Remember: Any activity you can do is better
than no activity at all. Set small goals to begin
with and build from there. Here are some tips:
• Work incidental exercise into your day whenever
you get the chance. Take the stairs as opposed
to the elevator, or get off the bus a stop early.
• Choose a type of exercise that you enjoy and
don’t be too disruptive to your routine. If you
don’t already go to the gym, joining might be
too big of a commitment. If you already enjoy
walking, that’s probably a better option.
• Exercise at moderate intensity on at least five
days each week. Moderate intensity exercise is
when your heart beats faster and causes some
shortness of breath, but you can still talk.
• Alternatively, exercise at vigorous intensity on at
least three days each week. Vigorous intensity
exercise results in a substantially higher heart
rate, and you can only speak in short phrases.
You can also do an equivalent combination of
both moderate and vigorous activities.
• Include a combination of activities that
incorporate cardiovascular or aerobic, muscle
strengthening, balance and flexibility.
• Cardiovascular or aerobic exercises might include brisk
walking, swimming, aerobics, cycling, tennis and some
household chores like mopping and vacuuming.
• Muscle strengthening might include wall push ups,
dips and other low-risk body weight exercises.
• Balance and flexibility exercises might include yoga or tai chi.
13/03/2017 12:15 PM
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