DementiaRoadmap Wales

Promoting living well with dementia across Wales

Dementia: Reduce your risk in 6 steps

April 23 2018

This document outlines 6 steps that people can take to improve both physical and mental health and significantly reduce the risk of developing dementia.

Download Dementia: Reduce your risk in 6 steps

The risk of dementia increases with age, and as more people are living longer, the number of people developing dementia will grow. However, it’s never too early or late to start following the 6 steps to reduce your risk of dementia. By taking these steps, you can significantly improve both your physical and mental health as
you age.

This leaflet explains the lifestyle choices that affect your risk of dementia, the steps you can take to reduce that risk and where you can go to find out more information and support.

The following six steps will not only make you feel better and reduce your risk of developing dementia, but will also help protect you from other health risks such as cancer, heart disease, stroke and diabetes.

  1. Be physically active
  2. Maintain a healthy weight
  3. Be socially and mentally active
  4. Avoid drinking too much alcohol
  5. Stop smoking
  6. Commit to review your health

Stay physically active

Some studies show that regular physical activity reduced the likelihood of developing dementia.  The recommended level of physical activity is to build up at least 30 minutes of moderate activity, most days.  Moderate activity is something like brisk walking or gardening – enough to make you warmer and make your heart beat faster.  Small changes to your daily routine can make big differences.  So try activities such as:
  • walking,
  • cycling,
  • gardening,
  • washing the car,
  • cleaning windows,
  • taking the stairs instead of the lift,
  • dancing,
  • swimming or joining a gym.

Diet

Evidence has shown that the risk of dementia is reduced by eating oily fish once a week and by increasing the amount of folic acid in your diet.  Good sources of folic acid include fortified cereals, green leafy vegetables and orange juice.
In general:
  • try to eat more fruit and vegetables;
  • eat 2 portions of fresh, tinned or frozen fish a week;
  • cut down on salt, fat and sugar in your diet;
  • eat more starchy foods like bread, breakfast cereals, rice, pasta and potatoes.

Stay mentally active

It is possible that exercising the brain through activities such as puzzles and games stimulates brain cell connections and helps to stave off dementia.  Try things to keep your brain active, such as:
  • reading;
  • playing cards,
  • board games and bingo;
  • doing crosswords and other puzzles;
  • attending a day or evening class;
  • learning to play a musical instrument or speak a language.

Socialising

Some studies have shown that having an extensive social network seems to protect against dementia.  Keep involved in the world around you and try to make sure you do something sociable every day:
  • keep in touch with friends and family;
  • get involved in your community;
  • volunteer for something that interests you;
  • join a club or class.
Activities which combine mental, physical and social stimulation may be even better for reducing the risk.

Other tips to reduce the risk

  • Go for regular health checks and get your blood pressure and cholesterol levels checked at least once every five years.
  • If you smoke, stop.  Smoking affects your circulation and may increase the risk of dementia.
  • Maintain a healthy body weight as people who are obese are considerably more likely to develop dementia later in life than people with a normal body weight.
  • Drink alcohol in moderation as drinking too much can cause alcohol-related dementia. If you drink, don’t exceed the 3 to 4 units a day for men or 2 to 3 units a day for women.

The risk of dementia increases with age. There are currently over 42,000 people with dementia in Wales and this figure is rising. Healthier living may reduce dementia risk by 60%. The infographic below illustrates the facts about dementia in Wales.

Infographic illustrating the facts about dementia in Wales

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