Dementia changes the brain structurally and chemically. Structurally, the cells in the brain die, and the tissues are lost, leading to the brain’s shrunken size. Chemically, the electrical signals between the brain’s cells get weak and wear down.
These changes in the brain make a person lose their ability to function normally as any other healthy person would. The inflicted person will find speech, reasoning, memory, daily living tasks, and any other functions challenging.
Genes, age, and certain diseases put people at high risk for dementia. However, certain habits can contribute to the disease, too. While it usually occurs in older people, it can happen to younger ones as well.
Those with diabetes and heart disease are even more at risk for developing dementia, and both are usually lifestyle-led diseases. This is why habits are huge contributors to the disease. Here are some brain-damaging habits you might not know can lead to dementia:
1. Not watching your eating habits
Overeating sugar, salt, saturated fats, junk food, or overeating, in general, can damage your brain. Excessive sugar in your diet can affect the level of essential bacteria in your stomach, feeding instead of the harmful elements in your gut such as Clostridiales linked to decreasing cognitive flexibility.
During midlife, consuming too much salt but very little potassium can be very detrimental to your health—it can significantly affect blood pressure negatively and contribute to stroke and cognitive deterioration.
Junk food is usually high in sodium, sugar, and other unnecessary ingredients that are basically low in nutrients. It’s any food or drinks that don’t have to be a part of your diet, but you consume them anyway, including fast food, sweets, chips, processed food, and more.
Finally, overeating can be very damaging to your health, but your brain takes the toll. Excessive consumption of calories can lead to weight gain, then ultimately to heart disease, high blood pressure, and diabetes—all of which can increase one’s risk of cognitive decline and dementia.
Take note that what your body needs to keep your brain healthy are lean proteins, minerals, vitamins, and healthy fats. So, make sure to take a diet full of grains, nuts, fruits, vegetables, healthy fats, and lean proteins like fish and chicken.
2. Not taking care of your chronic illnesses
As mentioned, diseases like diabetes, high blood pressure, and hypertension are contributors to dementia. Diabetes, by itself, can already increase a person’s risk for dementia by 73 percent. Getting hypertension during mid-age can make a person more likely to develop vascular dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
However, these diseases can be effectively managed with proper diet, medication, and exercise. A diet and lifestyle that care for the heart are also good for the brain, too. Illnesses that affect the lungs and heart can directly impact brain health.
3. Smoking and heavy drinking
Cigarettes and their smoke have more than 4,700 chemical compounds. Some can be very toxic, shrinking the brain over time, which is why smokers are at risk of dementia of all types and Alzheimer’s disease for up to 79 percent. Fortunately, the damage stops the moment one quits smoking, so the sooner you do, the better the results.
Drinking alcohol excessively is another way to get the diseases that lead to dementia, too. Over the years, excessively imbibing alcoholic drinks can lead to memory loss-led confusion, consequently increasing one’s risk of dementia.
4. Not being physically active
If you prefer a sedentary lifestyle or avoid exercising, you become more at risk of getting dementia. Being sedentary is another way to develop diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, and hypertension, so as much as possible, be physically active.
The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that normal adults strive to get at least 150 minutes of aerobic exercise of moderate intensity every week. You can do this by exercising 30 minutes five days a week. It’s a great way to boost blood flow and circulation, allowing more oxygen to get into the brain.
5. Not getting enough mental stimulation and sleep
Just as you have to exercise your body, you also have to exercise your mind. It can be a form of socialization, brain games, getting a new hobby, and more. Keep your mind engaged. Loners are more at risk of getting dementia. Talk to your nurse provided by a reliable in-home care agency, or get in touch with your circle of friends from time to time.
Also, just as you have to keep your body and mind moving, you should get enough rest, too. Lack of sleep can lead to sleep apnea and insomnia, making you more likely to get dementia.
Avoid Diseases That Can Lead to Dementia
Most of the time, it’s getting the disease that makes one more likely to develop dementia. Take care of your lungs and heart, and your brain health will follow.