From hearing aid to social behavior: How to reduce the risk of dementia NOW

The risk of dementia is now “lower than ever”. There is a lot you can do yourself if you want to reduce the risk even further. A relatively simple measure: if you have hearing loss, get a hearing aid quickly. And most importantly, talk to your neighbors. This keeps your brain active.

The risk of dementia has decreased by 13 percent per decade over the past thirty years, largely thanks to better health care turns out from recent research, including the Erasmus MC in Rotterdam.

Another just released reportThe Lancet Committee on Dementia Prevention reports that up to four in ten cases of dementia are preventable or delayed. How? By combating lifestyle factors.

In this way you can significantly reduce your risk of dementia yourself. The committee previously identified nine factors that increase risk: poor education, high blood pressure, hearing loss, smoking, obesity, depression, physical inactivity, diabetes, and poor social contacts.

Three were added, namely excessive alcohol consumption, brain damage from trauma, and air pollution.

“Many of the factors that increase the risk of dementia have to do with keeping the brain as active as possible. For example with a hearing aid. “

“Quitting smoking is the greatest achievement”

According to Professor of Geriatrics and Director of the Alzheimer’s Center Radboudumc Marcel Olde Rikkert, “smoking cessation is the greatest success you can achieve on all fronts of your health”.

The fact that alcohol is only now on the list, according to the professor, is because the evidence has now become compelling. Where the committee sets the limit at 21 units of alcohol per week, Olde Rikkert finds this on the conservative side. “I think that limit is much lower.”

“Education is very important at the beginning of life. They train the brain and build cognitive reserves. “

Marcel Olde Rikkert, professor of geriatrics

Of course, quitting smoking and limiting alcohol use sounds great, but everyone knows it isn’t that easy. Despite these obvious advantages, why is it so difficult for us to get rid of our bad habits?

Healthy habits only pay off in the long term

“An unhealthy life also has its advantages,” says Bjarne Timonen, a psychologist who studies lifestyle frequently. “Unhealthy habits are often worthwhile in the short term, while healthy habits are usually worthwhile in the long term.”

According to Timonen, behavior change begins with insight. You can see for yourself the advantages and disadvantages of old and new habits.

Once you understand why, get to work. “Keep your goals as small and specific as possible. Do you want to run? Instead of focusing on a marathon right away, start running for ten minutes. Then you can expand.”

Another tip: make it easy for yourself. “A recent example: put the hand sanitizer at the entrance to the store or office. It can also be helpful to combine a new habit with an old one. Would you like to use dental floss? Put the floss right next to your toothbrush.”

With education you build up cognitive reserves

Many of the factors that increase your risk of dementia have to do with keeping the brain as active as possible. This is the case with the hearing aid, for example.

“A related protective factor is social behavior,” says Olde Rikkert. “And at the beginning of life, education is very important. It trains the brain and builds cognitive reserves.”

It was high time Olde Rikkert added brain damage to the list of risk factors. “And that can be achieved in more ways than you think. For example, through accidents with e-bikes or through contact sports such as boxing and soccer.”