The way scientists approach dementia has changed in recent years. For decades it was seen as an inevitable part of ageing, something that occurred as someone got older. The theory was that as the body declined so too, inevitably, would the mind. However, that has now changed.
Towards the end of the 20th Century, scientists discovered dementia wasn’t an inevitability of life, rather it was a disease.
This meant it was one that could be treated and potentially cured.
Since that discovery, resources have been pumped into developing new treatments for dementia and its variants.
So far this has been to no avail so the research community has looked too at how people can reduce their risk of developing dementia.
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One of the main areas of focus is diet, the hope is that by encouraging better eating habits, people may be less susceptible to cognitive decline.
Two diets have been identified as having brain health improving capabilities, the Mediterranean and the MIND diet.
Both diets encourage the consumption of fresh produce, legumes, nuts, fish, wholegrains, and olive oil.
In studies these diets have also been shown to offer protection against cognitive decline.
One of the reasons behind their effectiveness is considered to be their ability to improve and sustain cardiovascular health.
Individuals with heart diseases are considered at greater risk of developing cognitive decline and dementia than others.
As a result, scientists say by improving cardiovascular health and blood flow to the brain, dementia could be avoided or delayed.
Dr Walter Willet of Harvard University says on diet: “Pretty much anything that will help keep arteries healthy will reduce risk of dementia.”
Meanwhile several risk factors can impact an individual’s likelihood of developing Alzheimer’s.
These include age, a family history of the condition, untreated depression, and lifestyle factors.
Diet, inactivity, excessive drinking, and smoking each play a role in determining a person’s risk of dementia.
Despite the devastation the disease causes, scientists are optimistic of new treatments within the next 10 years.