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What to do to prevent dementia?

The world’s medical and gerontological experts confirm that increasing social communication and light exercise help fight dementia, especially for the elderly.

According to the World Health Organization, dementia affects about 50 million people worldwide. Every year, there are about 10 million new cases.

Calvin Cheng Pak Wing, assistant professor of clinical psychiatry at the University of Hong Kong, says there is a strong link between depression and dementia. Many studies also show that depression is a significant risk factor for developing dementia.

How to not be confused by old age?

Dr Andrew Sommerlad, a consultant geriatric psychiatrist at University College London, believes socializing is key in combating senile dementia. Nearly two-thirds of the more than 5 million Americans living with Alzheimer’s disease are women. The reason may be because women live longer than men, may also be related to hormones. Jessica Gong, lead author of a study by the George Institute for Global Health in Australia, points to the neuroprotective effects of oestrogens (a hormone found in women). As women age, their estrogen levels gradually decrease.

In parallel with this research result, in 2021, the Center for Innovation in Brain Science at the University of Arizona, USA published a study showing a positive association between hormone therapy and a reduced risk of disease. Alzheimer’s – the most common manifestation of dementia.

Experts point to evidence that lifestyle changes can delay the onset of dementia. At different stages of life, risk reduction through lifestyle changes is different. For example, in the first half of life, that is the best educational foundation. In middle age and seniors, it’s about monitoring weight, blood pressure and alcohol intake per day, as well as tobacco use. According to many doctors, what is good for your heart is good for your mind.

Besides social communication, gentle physical activity also helps the brain maintain better functioning, reducing dementia in the elderly.  Photo: SCMP.

Besides social communication, gentle physical activity also helps the brain maintain better functioning, reducing dementia in the elderly. Image: SCMP.

In addition, Dr Paddy Dempsey, lead author of a recent study conducted by the UK’s University of Leicester, also showed the impact of brisk walking on brain aging. He asserted that, to reduce senile dementia, moderate-intensity physical activity profoundly improves cognitive performance and encourages the brain to enhance learning and memory.

In his research, he looked at the link between walking speed and telomere length. Telomeres are “caps” at the ends of chromosomes that help protect DNA, like the plastic beads at the end of shoelaces, keeping them from coming apart. The team found that brisk walking was associated with longer telomeres. Even brisk walking for many years can lead to a person’s biological age about 16 years younger than their actual age.

The UK’s National Health Service considers brisk walking to be a stride at about 4.8 kilometers per hour.

If you don’t have the conditions to walk briskly, any physical activity is helpful in improving health, reducing confusion in old age.

Thuy Linh (According to SCMP)

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