Dementia is an umbrella term used to describe a group of symptoms that affect
how a person’s brain works. 60,000 Kiwis have dementia & that number is
expected to almost triple by 2050.
While Dementia can affect anyone, the chances of developing dementia increase
as a person ages.
The most common form of dementia is Alzheimer’s disease with two out of three
of those diagnosed with dementia having Alzheimer’s.
Symptoms vary between individuals but common ones include changes in
memory, thinking, behaviour, personality and emotions which have an impact on
a person’s everyday life.
Dementia is progressive, with the changes that affect the brain slowly spreading
and making symptoms worse.
There has been no single cause linked with the onset of dementia however
research released in 2014 in The World Alzheimer Report suggests that there are
some simple steps people can take regarding their lifestyle in order to reduce the
risk of dementia in later life. They recommend that: ‘what is good for the heart is
also good for the brain’ and that any changes to lifestyle factors can have an
impact, meaning it’s never too late to start making health improvements.
Maintaining healthy weight, exercising moderately and regularly and eating a wellbalanced
diet will help prevent high cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes and
obesity in the short term and in the long term reduce your dementia risk. Being a
nonsmoker and consuming alcohol at safe levels can also help.
Just 30 minutes a day, five days a week is all that’s needed to ward of a range of
lifestyle diseases and conditions, and is the minimum level recommended to
reduce dementia risk. When we think of exercise we should also include mental
activity as well as physical. By learning new skills and completing mentally
challenging activities can help keep you alert.
Social contact is one of the benefits of group exercise. Whether it’s walking with
company, taking a class, or heading to an exercise facility or gym, getting
amongst like-minded people while getting active is a fantastic way to keep social
If you are worried about someone you love displaying symptoms of dementia, or if
you are experiencing these symptoms yourself, then an appointment with your GP
is the first step, as an early diagnosis means treatment and management can
begin. But don’t wait for the signs, start now by reducing your risks by getting
active and making healthy lifestyle choices today.