Alzheimer’s is a leading cause of dementia in older adults and sadly women are more susceptible to this degenerative disease than men. Two thirds of Americans diagnosed with Alzheimer’s are women but the onset of memory loss can be prevented. Dementia can also be caused by head injuries, brain tumor, infection or hormone disorders among other afflictions and diseases. Dementia can have a massive impact on people’s lives and is often one of the reasons many women over 50 must live in care homes. So how can women work to prevent such a prevalent disorder?
Many older people think that they cannot exercise due to mobility issues or other health issues but there are ways to keep active. Many gyms tailor exercises to the individual and offer classes to those who may have health problems. A study conducted on women aged between 70 and 80 showed that regular aerobic exercise boosts the size of the area of the brain most associated with the development of dementia. A brisk walk or any exercise which gets the heart rate up can reduce the risk of developing dementia.
Older women have different nutritional needs than their younger counterparts so this should be reason enough to change your diet as you age. However, eating a balanced diet filled with vitamins and minerals is also likely to reduce the risk of developing dementia. Evidence suggests that a Mediterranean diet reduces the risk of developing Alzheimer’s by 13%. As this is a leading cause of dementia in women, adapting your diet to include higher levels of cereals, fish, fruit and vegetables is likely to reduce your risk of memory problems later in life.
Limit Alcohol Intake
A 2013 review of the literature published in Alzheimer’s Research and Therapy shows that reduction in alcohol intake can help the brain to repair itself and prevent the onset of alcohol-related dementia. It goes without saying that too much alcohol is bad for the health but there is some evidence that minimal amounts of alcohol in older women can actually prevent the onset of dementia when compared with those who do not drink any alcohol. However, excessive alcohol drinking can lead to anxiety and stress which can also increase the risk of developing dementia.
Stress is a leading cause of many health issues in older women such as high blood pressure, obesity, heart disease and diabetes. However, recognizing stressors and acting on them before they take their toll on your health will help reduce your risk of developing problems leading to the onset of dementia. Take up a women-only yoga class to de-stress and learn to breathe when things are not going to plan. Take control of your stress by having some fun or take time out by yourself with a good book.
As women tend to live longer than men, their risk of developing dementia increases. Diabetes, heart disease, infections and high blood pressure have all been associated with the development of dementia therefore a few adaptations in your life will help your overall health.
Photo: 2 Women over 70 – Walking at Lake Tahoe, Nancy Cox and Dianne Morris