There are many proposed ways of how best to reduce the risk and delay the onset of dementia, but many of these techniques are often under researched to give conclusive results.
Last month, however, in a landmark study, researchers from the Committee on Preventing Dementia and Cognitive Impairment put forward their report on the best ways to delay the condition.
While studies that put forward ways to help delay dementia are not uncommon, this particular study, titled Preventing Cognitive Decline and Dementia: A Way Forward and published by The National Academies Press, has gained significantly more traction and esteem.
This is due to the fact that it is the first time that experts from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine have deemed the evidence strong enough to suggest delaying dementia may be possible.
The report states that it had found several interventions that can help slow cognitive decline and the onset of dementia. These include remaining physically active, engaging in cognitive training, and controlling one’s blood pressure.
In terms of cognitive training, the study states the best training is a good education and regular mental stimulation.
“There’s growing evidence that the ways in which your brain is challenged all through your life matter,” said Dr Kenneth Langa, a panel member and professor of internal medicine, gerontology and health management and policy at the University of Michigan School of Public Health.
While there is evidence that cognitive training can help delay dementia, the study stresses that it cannot prevent dementia or mild cognitive impairment entirely.
What researchers found concerning physical training is that the earlier consistent physical training is undertaken, the greater chances it can help delay dementia and slow cognitive decline.
“Prevention really needs to start in people who don’t show any sign of the disease — probably when people reach their 40s,” said Jeffrey Keller, director of the Institute for Dementia Research and Prevention at Louisiana State University.
The study suggests that a person should partake in approximately 20 minutes of physical activity a day, or 150 minutes a week.
Controlling your blood pressure
Unlike physical and cognitive training, managing one’s blood pressure was found to have the potential to prevent dementia alongside delaying it.
However, controlling blood pressure was not found to have an effect on age-related cognitive decline.
Mix it up
While these three techniques show promise, the study also stresses that these three should all be used together for the best results.
“If we think of Alzheimer’s as a multifactorial disease, it makes sense to reduce multiple risk factors simultaneously,” said Rong Zhang, associate professor of neurology and neurotherapeutics at University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center.
“The brain is complicated and its response to interventions is complex,” Langa said.
“Therefore, the more strategies that you use to try to improve the brain’s health long term, the more likely they’re going to work.”