Health

3 ways to reduce your risk of dementia

Dementia is an intimidating degenerative brain condition. Citro partner nib and Dr Preeya Alexander explain the practical steps we can all take to reduce the risks of dementia.

By Citro partner nib and Dr Preeya Alexander

The human brain is a complex machine and the disease of dementia makes it lose cognitive functioning like thinking, remembering and reasoning.

The term dementia refers to a collection of progressively declining brain functions like memory, speech, cognitive abilities, personality, behaviour and even mobility.

The gradual loss of memory and problems with thinking and reasoning are the hallmarks of dementia, which ultimately can lead to an inability to carry on with work and life activities independently.

Dementia is, understandably, a daunting health condition.

There were approximately 400,000 Australians living with dementia in 2022, equivalent to 15 people in every 1,000, increasing to 84 per 1,000 aged 65 and over. Of these, two-thirds are female.

General practitioner and author Dr Preya Alexander says there are certainly ways to reduce risk of dementia. The best part? You can start now. 

In this article, we’ll answer some of your biggest questions on dementia, from what it is, risk factors and symptoms to whether or not it can be prevented.

Dementia comes in different forms, including Alzheimer’s

Dementia is a progressive brain syndrome which has many different forms – Alzheimer’s is the most common, with other forms including vascular dementia and dementia with Lewy bodies. In the majority of cases, there is no genetic link. There’s no cure yet, but some medications can reduce symptoms.

Symptoms of dementia can vary, explains Preeya.

“There are a range of potential symptoms that may indicate an underlying issue, so if in doubt have a chat to your doctor,” she says. “For concerned family members, try your best to visit the GP with your family member, as a full picture of their health history, such as family history, is extremely helpful when exploring a potential memory issue.”

A few common symptoms of dementia symptoms:

●  short-term memory loss

●  difficulty finding words

●  confusion about time and place

●  changes in personality or behaviour

●  a loss of interest in activities that used to be enjoyed.

If you’re experiencing simple forgetfulness, resist jumping to any conclusions.

“Forgetfulness is not always dementia. There are many things that can impact memory such as iron deficiency, hypothyroidism and depression,” explains Preeya.

The lifestyle and genetic risk factors of dementia

While there are some risk factors for dementia you can’t modify, such as increasing age or inherited genes, there are many you can, says Preeya. Among them are excessive alcohol intake, a lack of physical activity, high blood pressure and high cholesterol.

“Aim for 150 to 300 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per week,” Preeya advises. “Also, ensure blood pressure and cholesterol are managed to reduce your risk.” 

Another risk factor for dementia is smoking.

“If you’re a smoker, quitting is not only good for the heart but also for the brain,” says Preeya. “Know there are multiple sources of support available and quitting means improving overall health while reducing dementia risk.”

Reducing the risk for dementia

Here are 3 ways you can reduce your risk of developing dementia:

1. Embrace a healthy diet

It’s not news to anyone that what you put into your body impacts your brain activity, so it stands to reason that a healthy diet can reduce risk of dementia.

“Eating well can help the brain, as well the rest of the body,” says Preeya. “Dietary interventions such as aiming for a diet high in fruit and vegetables, choosing unsaturated fats – as opposed to saturated ones – and limiting alcohol intake can help protect against dementia.”

Healthy fats are found in foods such as olive oil, avocados, unsalted nuts and sunflower oil, while unhealthy (saturated) fats are found in butter, coconut oil, cream, fat on meat and ice-cream. 

Read more on Citro about the health benefits of the Mediterranean diet as we age.

2. Maintain cardiovascular health

Your heart and brain health are very closely related and, by looking after your heart, you’ll also help protect yourself against dementia.

“Staying physically active, managing blood pressure and cholesterol issues while protecting your heart is also protecting your brain,” explains Preeya.

If you suffer from cardiovascular conditions such as high blood pressure, ensure you’re working with your GP or a specialist to stay ahead of it as both your heart and brain will thank you, she advises. 

3. Stimulate your brain

If you’re a Sunday sudoku-frequent, you’re in luck – brain exercises can help in dementia prevention. Citro has a range of free online games to keep your mind in shape. 

“Doing lots of brain exercises regularly can help protect the brain against dementia – so crosswords and sudoku aren’t just a hobby, they’re also great for the brain,” Preeya confirms.

Ready to get started? nib have compiled 10 brain exercises that will help improve your memory. These training tricks are surprisingly easy – and you might already be doing some of them.

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Citro member offer

Citro members can enjoy up to $300 cashback for singles and up to $600 cashback for couples purchasing an eligible combined Hospital + Extras cover by 31 July, 20241. nib will also waive the 2 and 6 month waiting periods, which means you can claim straight away on Extras such as dental and optical.

The offer is only available to those who pay through their Citro Card. Want your own card? Get the Citro App

Terms and Conditions

 1 The Offer is only available to new members who are Australian citizens, permanent residents of Australia, or those who are entitled to full reciprocal rights under Medicare, registered for Medicare and listed on an active Medicare card, and who join an eligible combined Hospital and Extras policy by 11:59pm 31 July 2024. Ineligible products include Basic Kickstarter, Basic Accident Hospital and Value Extras. Not available to existing health insurance policyholders with nib, AAMI, Apia, Suncorp, nib, ING, GU Health, Priceline, Qantas, Real Health Insurance or Seniors Health Insurance, or to previous policyholders who have held health insurance with any of these brands and cancelled their policy 6 months before or during the Offer Period.   

The Offer consists of: 

  1. Up to $600 cashback on your Citro card: The Offer consists of 6 monthly cashback payments to be applied to the Eligible Members Citro card for a 6 month period, beginning in month 3 of membership to an amount equating to a maximum total of AUD $300 (inclusive of GST) for single policies and an amount equating to a maximum  total of AUD $600 (inclusive of GST) for single-parent family, couple and family policies.  
  2. Waived waits:  2 & 6 month waiting periods will be waived for Eligible Members on all Extras services that normally require a 2 or 6 month waiting period under the Eligible Product. The Waiver will be fulfilled at the time the Eligible Member takes out the Eligible Product.  Longer waiting periods may apply for some services 

The Eligible Member must maintain the qualifying policy up to the date of the Offer being applied to the policy, as outlined in the terms and conditions. The Offer will be forfeited if the Eligible Member is not an active policyholder on this date. Not available with any other offer unless otherwise stated. See full terms and conditions.  

For full terms and conditions regarding Citro’s cashback, please visit Citro cashback terms and conditions.

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