Most of us don't think twice about memory loss, and we see it as an issue that only affects people of old age. However, dementia can strike before the age of 65, which it makes it important to keep up on habits that can prevent cognitive decline. There are a number of things that science says can help with preventing early-onset dementia, and being aware of these factors can help you take the steps to preserve your mental health. Although early-onset dementia can be partially genetic, it can't hurt to everything you can to make sure you don't get any disorders at an early age — or any age for that matter.
"Early-onset dementia is considered as any neurocognitive disorder that presents earlier in life," Nicole Absar, M.D., medical director of the Proxmire Neurocognitive Clinic at Integrace Copper Ridge, tells Bustle. "Earl- onset dementia can be familial or sporadic in nature. It can be caused by a number of factors, including genetic mutations, and environmental causes, including the person’s lifestyle, age, medical status, nutrition, level of physical /mental activities, and overall health."
And although a diagnosis may not be fully in someone's control, here are five things that science says can help you fight early-onset dementia or reduce your risk as you get older.
Exercise is a surefire way to reduce dementia risk. "It has already been proven that regular, daily cardio exercise — even done in multiple 20-minute intervals — can slow down the development of Alzheimer’s disease," says Dr. Absar. "Structured yoga and activities that focus on mindfulness such as meditation can also be beneficial."
2A Healthy Diet
Eating a modified version of the Mediterranean Diet, known as the “MIND” Diet, has produced positive research results in preventing dementia and loss of brain function. "This diet focuses on consuming low levels of carbohydrates and LDL fat, and high levels of HDL fats, with lots of green vegetables and colorful fruits that serve as anti-oxidants for the brain," says Dr. Absar.
Research shows that stress can play a role in dementia development, so alleviating stress is essential in preventing early-onset dementia. "Stress management is at the center of a good brain health program, as it is not about simply eliminating stress but optimally managing it," Dean Sherzai, MD, PhD, co-director of the Alzheimer’s Prevention Program at Loma Linda University, tells Bustle. "How you manage the stress is to identify your good and bad stressors, find ways to reduce, delegate, or eliminate the bad stressors, and to create a world where you live at the center of your good stressors. Don’t discount the power of meditation and mindfulness as a boost to the brain."
4Getting Quality Sleep
Sleep is one of the most important factors for long-term brain health, and getting good quality sleep matters. Research shows that less REM sleep — the phase of sleep that includes dreaming — is linked to greater risk of dementia. "It isn’t just a matter of being knocked out with certain medications, but about achievement of 7-8 hours of deep sleep per night," says Dr. Sherzai. "Sleep is important because it serves two amazing functions: It organizes memories and thoughts and cleanses the brain from inflammatory and waste byproducts."
Optimizing your mental activity can also help to prevent dementia. "Complex real-life activities, such as a complex job environment that is along one’s purpose and is constantly challenging one, playing a musical instrument and or learning to dance, or playing cards with friends has the most protective effect on the brain," says Dr. Sherzai. Research is mixed on brain games, but keeping your mind sharp through challenging your weaknesses can help those at risk.
Keeping up on these healthy habits that can help you reduce your risk of early-onset dementia.