7 Lifestyle Habits Can Help Lower Dementia Risk For Women

7 Lifestyle Habits Can Help Lower Dementia Risk For Women

It’s no secret that adopting healthy lifestyle habits early on in life can help improve overall health. A new long-term study suggests that simple lifestyle changes in middle age may help reduce the risk of dementia. In the study, researchers followed 13,720 women for 20 years to analyze their risk of developing dementia. They examined Medicare claims at the end of the study to determine who received a diagnosis. 

The women in the study received a score for seven health factors. A “0” corresponded to “poor” and a “7” corresponded to “excellent.” According to the study results, the average score at the beginning was 4.3. After a 10-year follow-up, the score was 4.2. At the 20-year follow-up, 1,771 women had already been diagnosed with dementia

Researchers adjusted for several factors, including age and education, and found that for every increase of one point in overall score, the participant’s risk of dementia decreased by 6%. It’s important to note that one limitation of the study was that researchers did not receive information that allowed them to see changes in healthy habits. Such changes included quitting smoking, being active, eating better, and maintaining a healthy weight, all of which influence the risk of dementia. 

What Is Dementia?

Dementia is the loss of cognitive functioning, including thinking, remembering, and reasoning. In the beginning, symptoms may be very minor and hard to notice, but the person becomes worse as the disease advances. In fact, dementia can interfere with a person’s daily life and activities. Some dementia patients cannot control their emotions, and their personalities may change. In the more severe stages of the condition, the person typically depends on others for basic activities of daily living. 

Dementia affects millions of people around the world, but it becomes more popular as people grow older. Roughly one-third of people age 85 or older may have some form of dementia, but this isn’t a normal part of aging. Maybe people live well into their 90s without any signs of dementia. 

Women And Dementia

According to a 2021 report, women make up about two-thirds of the people living with dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease. Researchers note that one reason for the higher percentage of female dementia patients is because women live longer than men, and dementia tends to appear after age 80. Other possible reasons include:

  • Dementia is linked to depression, and more women have depression than men (statistically)
  • People who exercise are less likely to develop dementia, and women tend to exercise less than men.
  • Higher education is associated with lower rates of dementia. Many older women today weren’t afforded the same educational opportunities as men.

Symptoms Of Dementia

Everyone loses some neurons as they age, but people with dementia lose significantly more. When women develop dementia, they decline at a much faster rate than men do. For this reason, they can have a more severe form of the illness. The most common signs and symptoms of dementia include:

  • Difficulty speaking, understanding, or expressing thoughts
  • Trouble handling money responsibly and paying bills
  • Experiencing memory loss, poor judgment, and confusion
  • Wandering and getting lost in a familiar neighborhood
  • Losing interest in normal daily activities or events
  • Repeating questions
  • Using unusual words to refer to everyday objects
  • Acting impulsively
  • Losing balance and problems with movement 

When you start to notice these symptoms, in your own self or loved one, it may be time to see a doctor. The same is true for new changes, new symptoms, or worsening of previous symptoms. Although there is no cure, there are some treatments that may help slow the progression of the disease. In addition to those treatments, the following lifestyle habits can be of great help. 

The 7 Lifestyle Habits

Researchers used the American Heart Association’s “Life’s Simple 7” lifestyle habits for their study. Those seven habits are detailed below:

  • Eating better
  • Being active
  • Not smoking
  • Maintaining a healthy weight
  • Controlling cholesterol
  • Having low blood sugar
  • Maintaining healthy blood pressure

Behavioral neurologists suggest that this list isn’t an all-or-nothing situation. You don’t have to be the healthiest person alive; rather, adopting some of these habits can improve your long-term health. Any improvements you make over time can help benefit cognition as you age. And changing habits will result in some health benefits, especially if you make them earlier on in life. The longer you maintain these habits, the better.

2023-03-08T17:55:09-07:00

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