Most of the advice around ageing centres on eating the right foods and taking regular exercise. However, it is just as important to look after our brains to ensure that we can live healthy and independent lives for as long as possible. 

The charity Alzheimer’s Research UK  recently issued some advice to help raise awareness of the steps we can all take to age well and lessen our risk of cognitive decline. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia, and affects over 500,000 people in the UK, with numbers expected to rise steeply in the future.

A recent YouGov survey found that just 2% of the population takes enough action to keep their brain in top condition. This is concerning, as it is thought that 40% of dementia cases could be avoided with more preventative action, particularly during the 40s and 50s. This is why Alzheimer’s Research UK have highlighted the 12 biggest risk factors.

Many people assume that dementia simply makes a person more forgetful. However, it is a progressive condition that causes a range of symptoms besides memory loss, including the erosion of logical thought processes, personality changes, and eventually, the inability to wash, dress, and mobilise independently.

Prof Jonathan Schott, Alzheimer’s Research UK’s Chief Medical Officer, said: “We hope the Think Brain Health Check-in will show people that there are things that can be done to improve their brain health, and provide a practical and easy means to allow them to take action to reduce their risk of dementia.”

He added: “While there are no sure-fire ways to prevent dementia yet – risk is likely to relate to a combination of our age, genetics and lifestyle – evidence has shown that there are steps we can all take to improve our brain health.”

“Currently only a third of people realise this is possible, and we urgently need to change that. It’s never too early or too late in life to start looking after your brain – so please do take the Check-in today and see what you can do to improve your brain health.”

It is important to point out that even people who live exemplary lifestyles can still develop dementia, as in some cases it is a hereditary disease. Therefore no one should be blamed for the condition. Nonetheless, it is important to do all you can to mitigate against the risk as far as possible. 

The steps we can all take to look after our brains include not smoking, drinking alcohol within the recommended safe limits of 14 units per day, and taking regular exercise. Other important points include treating hearing loss early, having meaningful social contact at least twice a week, and monitoring your blood pressure.

Staying mentally sharp through activities such as crosswords, number puzzles, or learning a new skill is important to keeping our brains young. It is also recommended to get at least seven hours of sleep per night, and to look after your mental wellbeing.

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