Dementia. It’s one of the most frightening diagnoses you can get. And it wasn’t too long ago we had no idea what could be done to reduce your chances of it striking. You either started to lose your memories, or you didn’t.
But we’re learning more about this devastating disease every day. We now understand that dementia doesn’t actually strike at random. We know more about the things that can cause dementia. In fact, there are risk factors that make a diagnosis far more likely. And the great news is that there are things you can do to significantly reduce your own risk of dementia.
Could these everyday habits cause dementia?
Following are five common habits that could be secretly driving up your dementia risk.
1. Avoiding the sun:
Making good decisions about sun exposure can be a lot harder than it sounds. Most folks now know that baking for hours in the sun in pursuit of the ultimate tan can be dangerous, raising your risk for skin cancer. But unfortunately that safety message has caused a lot of folks to fear the sun, and that can lead to problems.
Sunlight is your main source of vitamin D. When you cover your bare skin from head to toe, and use a heavy-duty sunblock every time you step outdoors you risk not getting enough of this vital vitamin. And vitamin D deficiency could cause dementia, according to researchers.
For example, in a study which included more than 1600 seniors, folks who were severely deficient in vitamin D were found to have a 125 percent increased risk of dementia. Those with a mild deficiency didn’t get off the hook either, they still had a 53 percent increased risk of the devastating diagnosis.
The good news is experts say raising your vitamin D levels into the healthy range can reverse the symptoms and restore cognitive function, mood and personality.
2. Cutting corners on sleep:
Even if you think you’re fine getting less than seven hours of sleep, your brain likely doesn’t agree. Your body uses the time when you’re asleep to tidy up and make repairs. And experts say getting too little shuteye could raise your risk for dementia.
While you’re sleeping your brain flushes out the toxins that have made their way into your system throughout the day. Without the chance to purge those toxins, they can build up and begin to cause forgetfulness, mood changes and confusion. They may even cause dementia. Aim for seven to nine hours of sleep every night for a happy healthy brain.
3. Not getting enough vitamin B12:
All of our brains shrink a bit as we age. But while a bit of shrink is normal, experts say a faster shrink is linked to dementia. And the more your brain mass drops the worse the dementia is likely to get.
Lucky for us a study conducted at Oxford University uncovered a simple way to help slow that shrink down to a crawl. It turns out vitamin B12 naturally helps protect our brains from shrinking as we age. So simply maintaining healthy levels of B12 could help protect you against dementia.
You’ll get a B12 boost from organic grass-fed beef, salmon and yogurt.
4. Losing touch with friends:
Believe it or not being a social butterfly could be the key to avoiding dementia. According to research conducted at the Rush Alzheimer’s Disease Center in Chicago, seniors who maintained the most social interaction had a 70 percent lower rate of mental decline than folks who were more isolated.
If you’ve lost touch with old friends and are unsure how to jumpstart your social life again, start small. Experts at the University of Chicago say simply making small talk during your commute or with a cashier can make a big difference.
5. Sitting too much:
Like every other part of your body, your brain benefits when you exercise. Exercise gets your blood pumping, which helps to deliver more nutrients and oxygen to your brain. And a well fed brain means healthy brain cells as well as the ability to produce new ones.
Don’t worry we’re not talking about having to run marathons here, either. The University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign reports that 30 minutes of exercise a day is enough to protect you against dementia.
Stay sharp as a tack for years to come. Slashing your risk of developing dementia can be as simple as flipping these five common habits on their head.