BY MADELINE ROBERTS VANN
IF YOUR DOCTOR’S note reads, “Spend
more time with your family and friends,”
pay attention. Socializing can help reduce
your risk of dementia, according to the
National Institute on Aging (NIA;
gov). While you’re at it, taking other steps,
such as being more physically active, eating healthfully and managing depression,
diabetes and heart disease can also help
;ght this condition.
Dementia is an umbrella term for a
range of conditions that a;ect one’s cognitive abilities in ways that interfere with
daily life. The NIA estimates that about
; percent of people over ;; will have some
form of dementia. There are dozens of
subtypes of dementia; Alzheimer’s disease is the most common.
You can’t change your age, which is the
leading risk factor for dementia, but you
can a;ect risk factors such as how social
you are, your exercise habits, and your
heart disease and diabetes management.
Grandchildren are grand
Spending one day a week with your
grandchildren reduces the risk of dementia, according to the results of research
with ;;; Australian grandmothers who
participated in the Women’s Healthy
Ageing Project. The results appear in the
October ;;;; issue of the journal
Menopause, published by the North
American Menopause Society (meno
; Plan a “date.” Play date, lunch date,
coffee date. Pick your favorite.
; Volunteer. Check out the AARP
Experience Corps for ways to share your
; Go for a hike or a swim. You need 150
minutes of moderate exercise weekly,
according to the Centers for Disease
Control and Prevention (
; Treat depression. Depression is linked
to higher dementia risk, according to a
review of risk factors published in the
September 3, 2016, issue of the journal
Alzheimer’s and Dementia. Talk to your
doctor if feelings of sadness, worthlessness
or hopelessness persist.
; Cook heart healthy. Aim for a diet that
is low in saturated fat and includes plenty
of whole grains, fruits and vegetables.
; Review your medications, vitamins
and supplements. Ask your doctor or pharmacist if you might be taking medications,
such as benzodiazepines, that increase the
risk of dementia, or lacking nutrients, such
as vitamin B12.
; Take a class. You’ll learn something
new and meet new friends.—MRV
with friends and
family is good for
Get social Australian dementia researcher Bruce Barber, honorary research fellow in the National Ageing Research Institute at the University of Melbourne (
nari.net.au). All social connections help Connecting with friends and family is one of the most important ways to stave o; dementia, says geriatrician and Costco
member Dr. Carla Perissinotto, associate
professor of geriatrics at the University of
California, San Francisco.
“There is a higher risk to developing
dementia if you are lonely and isolated,”
she says, adding that she often will “
prescribe” an increase in older patients’
When you aren’t able to be there in
person, technology can help. You can add
to your healthy cognitive challenges by
learning how to socialize via text, video
chat, email or social media.
“Young people in particular respond
to text. They respond to text sometimes
more immediately than they are going to
respond to a phone call,” says Dr. Parker
Sternbergh, assistant director of the
Porter-Cason Institute for the Family and
Center for Life Long Learning at the
Tulane School of Social Work in New
tssw.tulane.edu). Your text
might be the bright spot in an otherwise
tough day, until you can see each other
face to face again.
Heart healthy is brain healthy
Staying connected socially is one way
to prevent dementia. But there are others,
such as getting regular physical activity
and managing chronic conditions such as
diabetes and heart disease.
Researchers looked at the health data
from ;;,;;; adults over the age of ;; and
found that the more heart disease risk
factors people had, the more likely they
were to have both heart disease and cognitive decline. The data appeared in the
September ;, ;;;;, issue of Preventive
Medicine. The research suggests you could
improve both heart disease and dementia
• Stopping smoking.
• Being more active.
• Maintaining a healthy weight.
• Managing depression, diabetes and
high blood pressure.
Anything you can do to change those
heart disease risk factors could help
reduce dementia risk as well. And you get
the bonus of making and strengthening
bonds with friends and family. C
Madeline Roberts Vann is a freelance
health and medical writer based in
FOR YOUR HEALTH
A get-social ıdea lıst
Even the occasional stressful interaction can be helpful.
“Such contact serves as a cognitive
challenge to older persons, and there is
evidence that higher levels of cognitive
challenge delay the onset of cognitive
decline, mild cognitive impairment and
symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease,” says