Dementia is a blanket term used to define a number of systems that are associated with the deterioration of memory and other thinking skills at a level enough to impair a person's ability carry out everyday activities. Dementia has no cure. However, research has shown that simple lifestyle changes can lower risks by up to 50 percent.
Several researches have explored the relationship between lifestyle factors and dementia, and results have shown that it is possible for one out of every three cases of dementia to be prevented simply by increasing levels of physical activity, quitting smoking, and tackling health problems like diabetes and obesity.
Last month, Cambridge University released the results of a landmark study, suggesting that simply engaging in an hour of exercise a week can drastically reduce risks for Alzheimer's disease by nearly half. That's less than 10 minutes of exercise everyday!
A study published in the Lancet Neurology in July further supported results presented by Cambridge University by identifying exercise as the most significant form of protection against dementia. It pointed out that those who did not engage in five 30-minute sessions of moderate exercise or three 20-minute bursts of physical activity a week were 82 percent likely to develop some form of dementia.
Aside from also highlighting the importance of regular exercise, Alzheimer's Society also listed other simple changes in lifestyle that anyone can do to reduce their risks of developing dementia.
These include: eating a "Mediterranean" diet with lots of fruits, vegetables, nuts, fish, and olive oil; avoiding smoking (smoking damages blood vessels and cuts the amount of blood the brain receives); managing other health conditions (blood pressure and type 2 diabetes increase risks of dementia); and challenging the brain regularly.
"We know that what is good for your heart is good for your head and there are simple things you can start doing now to reduce your risk of developing dementia. Regular exercise is a good place to start as well as eating a Mediterranean diet and avoiding smoking. It is never too early to start making healthier choices that could help your memory - whether that's hitting the gym or just walking instead of catching the bus, it all helps," said Alzheimer's Society's Dr. Clare Walton.
Alzheimer's disease accounts for up to 80 percent of dementia cases in the world. In the U.S. alone, more than five million people are living with the disease. With about half a million people dying every year because of the condition, Alzheimer's is the sixth leading cause of death in the country.