There are several ways through which vascular dementia can be prevented. Most of these approaches involve keeping the whole body healthy, particularly the heart. In this way, we can combat not just vascular dementia, but also cardiovascular diseases like strokes or heart attacks. It should be noted, however, that not all forms of dementia can be prevented.
As indicated, preventing vascular dementia can be achieved through a holistic approach to health. This involves maintaining a healthy weight, employing a healthy diet, regular exercise and controlling blood pressure. In addition to this, one should try to avoid excess alcohol consumption and smoking.
Diet and Weight
Carrying extra fat or being overweight will increase one’s blood pressure, thus heightening the risk of vascular dementia. One needs to regulate one’s diet in order to both maintain a healthy weight and avoid dementia.
Try eating a low-fat, high-fibre diet. This will entail the consumption of fresh fruit and vegetables and wholegrain foods. Look to also moderate your salt consumption - don’t eat more than six grams (one teaspoon) per day, as an excess amount of salt will increase blood pressure. Also, try not to eat foods with a lot of saturated fat, such as butter, sausages, cream, hard cheese or cakes and biscuits. The presence of saturated fats in a diet will raise your cholesterol level, which in turn raises the risk of vascular dementia. Instead, try foods such as fish, avocado, seeds, nuts and sunflower or olive oils, all of which contain beneficial unsaturated fats.
If you need to find out whether you are overweight, try calculating your Body Mass Index - weight in kilograms divided by height in metres. A BMI of 25-30 is considered overweight, and over 30 is considered obese.
As advised earlier, try to limit your alcohol consumption. Alcohol can cause a rise in blood pressure, so try to stick to the recommended maximum limit of three to four units per day for men and two to three for women. One unit equals 250ml of normal strength lager or 25ml of spirits.
If possible, don’t smoke. If you do smoke, try to quit. Smoking will cause a narrowing of the arteries and thus a rise in blood pressure. Smoking is also a major cause of cardiovascular disease as well as cancer and vascular dementia.
Exercising Body and Mind
One of the most important parts of maintaining health is to exercise regularly. Exercise helps lower cholesterol and regulates blood pressure. At least thirty minutes of exercise per day is recommended. Exercise should be vigorous enough to increase heart rate and cause a slight shortness of breath.
Aside from vascular dementia, there is some evidence that rates of other types of dementia are lower in those who are mentally and physically active. One needs to exercise both body and mind and to do this, one might try activities such as reading, learning languages, playing musical instruments and trying sports like tennis, golf, swimming or even just walking regularly.