It is a sad fact, but the older you get more likely you are to develop memory problems, and while it is more common once you are aged 65 years or over, the occurrence of ‘young-onset dementia’ or ‘working dementia’ does seem to be on the increase. Here at Fab after Fifty we want women to make the most of their lives once over 50 and here we bring you our guide to staying mentally sharp.
The first thing to remember is you can manage the risk and a report this month noted that over a third of cases – 35 per cent to be exact – could be prevented just through some lifestyle changes.
“Not all of the nine risk factors identified are easily modifiable. But there are easier wins…” said Dr Doug Brown, the director of research at the Alzheimer’s Society.
“We all need to be aware of the risks and start making positive lifestyle changes. Understanding how to bring about changes in behaviour in people at risk of dementia should be a firm priority.”
So what can you do?
Well keeping active is a big one – and that includes both physically and mentally.
We all know how important and beneficial it is to exercise and the usual rule is to try and do at least half an hour five times a week. Exercise has lots of benefits, including, improving your mood and ability to cope with stress and in turn lowering your risk of depression.
Keeping yourself mentally active though is just as important as keeping physically fit and you can get ‘mind fit’ in a number of ways from taking up puzzles and crosswords, to learning a new language or going back to studying or playing a new game, like Poker. Poker, for example, can be a great way to keep that grey matter ticking over, and if you have never played, learning the different rules and getting a handle on all the different strategies is sure to challenge. Furthermore while women are generally more risk adverse than men when playing poker and in general – don’t let that put you off as there are a lot of successful professional women poker players and quite a few are 50+, including Jennifer Harman, Annie Duke, Mimi Tran and Cyndy Violette, who all have substantial career earnings from poker.
You can combine the two as well, by learning a new sport you have never done, which can also be a great way to meet new people and make new friends and help ensure you don’t feel socially isolated.
Another step is to look at your diet with many experts and studies showing this can be a key factor.
A Mediterranean-style diet – rich in vegetables, fruits, nuts and olive oil etc, etc – is said to be especially good, so not only is it better for your heart, reducing your risk of diabetes and high blood pressure etc, etc, but it can also lower the chances of developing dementia. Win-win.
Diabetes and high blood pressure, incidentally, have both been identified as dementia risk factors, along with too much weight.
Related to diet don’t forget to monitor your alcohol in-take – 14 units or less a week and not all squeezed into one day! – and if you smoke, try and give up. Get a hearing check as well, now available on many high streets just like opticians.
If you follow some of these tips you should help ensure you stay sharp and remember it’s never too late to make that change: be pro-active, beat dementia, stay ‘Fab after Fifty’.