It’s normal to develop some mild forgetfulness as you get older. Dementia, in contrast, is a disease of the brain that severely reduces memory and thinking skills. It can eventually cause a decreased ability to do daily tasks such as driving, shopping or even talking to a friend.
Alzheimer’s Disease is the most common type of dementia. It gradually
gets worse over many years. While it has many risk factors – including age, genetics, environment, lifestyle – the importance of each factor varies between individuals.
It’s not know what can definitely prevent Alzheimer’s. But we do know how you can reduce the risk. As it happens, they’re the same things that decrease diabetes, heart disease and cancer risk – a healthy diet and weight, regular exercise, not smoking.
Keeping your brain active also reduces your risk. Recommended activities include:
- social engagement, volunteering, living with someone
- mental stimulation; lectures, reading books and magazines
- playing games; crossword puzzles, sudoko
Challenging the brain with new activities especially helps to build new brain cells and strengthen connections between them.
Activities can include learning a new language or sport, and doing a study course you’ve always wanted to do.
Computer programs for brain training (also called brain exercises) are also widely available. They can improve memory and thinking skills if you don’t have Alzheimer’s, although each type of program varies in the brain functions that they help.
Once again, however, there’s no proof that brain training can definitely prevent Alzheimer’s. In addition, the research shows that any benefits may be best achieved under expert supervision in a training centre, rather than doing brain training alone at home. Speak to your GP, visit www.yourbrainmatters.org.au