Dementia can seem like an inevitable part of the ageing process but this is a misconception. Although age is a major risk factor, it is not the cause of dementia. In fact, there are many risk factors that are modifiable and they do not cost a thing.
In fact, “some will even save you money”, pointed out Fran Vandelli, a dementia lead for Bupa Care Homes.
According to Ms Vandelli, quitting smoking is a cost-free intervention that bolsters the brain against decline.
She explained: “Smoking increases plaque which builds up in your blood vessels, making it harder for blood to travel around the body.
“This can prevent blood from reaching your brain, raising your risk of developing dementia.”
READ MORE: Dementia: Five early warning signs of Alzheimer’s in a person’s 40s, 50s or 60s
As Ms Vandelli noted, someone smoking 10 cigarettes a day could save around £2,000 a year from quitting, “so your mind, body and wallet will be better off”.
Shun unhealthy foods
Try to avoid processed or fatty foods – including sausages and burgers, ready meals, cakes and biscuits, advised Ms Vandelli.
“These can increase your cholesterol, which is detrimental to your blood vessels,” she warned.
Watch out for salt too. “It’s recommended that we eat less than 6g a day but, on average, we consume 8.6g,” said Ms Vandelli.
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“While it might not seem like much, it can impact on our blood pressure and heart health, which again can increase our risk of developing dementia.”
What does she recommend? “Growing your own vegetables can help reduce food bills and keep you active. It’s also cheap if you grow from seeds and some people trade their excess produce with other growers in their community.”
As Ms Vandelli explained, staying active and getting involved in hobbies helps maintain physical strength and dexterity. It can also help manage our weight and blood pressure.
“You don’t need an expensive gym membership. Instead it’s about finding activities that work for you – whether that’s going out for a jog or brisk walk, hopping on the bike, or doing a home workout.”
Keep your brain ticking
Ms Vandelli said: “When it comes to keeping a healthy mind, it’s very much ‘use it or lose it’ – so keep your brain active to reduce your risk of developing dementia.”
“While enrolling in a formal course can be beneficial, free options like language-learning apps or picking up a book from your local library can also help.”
What’s more, there are free websites, including the BBC, which have lots of educational resources and aren’t just for children, she noted.
“If you want to develop a new skill or learn a musical instrument there are lots of free lessons on YouTube.”
Cut down on drinking
If you’re a heavy drinker, cutting down may reduce your risk of cognitive decline.
“This is because excessive alcohol consumption, over a long period of time, can cause brain damage and increase your risk of developing dementia,” explains Ms Vandelli.
Instead, “try and keep to the recommended amount of up to 14 units per week, spread over at least three separate days”, she said.