Lifestyle changes can reduce dementia risk

Support and information groups offered in Abbotsford and Mission

It’s never too late to make lifestyle changes to promote brain health.

“What is good for your heart is good for your brain,” says Jude Weir, the regional education and support co-ordinator for the non-profit Alzheimer Society of B.C. for Abbotsford and Mission.

Weir says better control and detection for hypertension and diabetes, as well as measures to encourage smoking cessation and to reduce cardiovascular risk, have the potential to reduce the risk of dementia.

Currently 747,000 Canadians, including many in Abbotsford, are affected by the brain disorder, and that number is forecast to double within the next 25 years.

“While there is no clear-cut way to prevent dementia, you can take steps to lower the chances of developing the disease,” Weir says.

It starts with knowing your personal risk. Cardiovascular disease, diabetes, hypertension, smoking and depression can increase the risk.

“Healthy lifestyle choices are good for your heart, as well as your brain,” she adds.

She says people should choose a diet low in fat, incorporate exercise into daily routines, challenge their brains, be socially active, and protect their heads.

Another important step is talking to your doctor about your personal risk or if you have concerns about dementia.

“There is a difference between normal aging and dementia,” Weir says.

The society is doing its part by offering a variety of programs and services for local residents.

Support and information groups, for example, serve as a forum for sharing practical tips and strategies for coping with the disease.

They help create support and friendship with others whose lives are affected by dementia.

“The groups are there for people who want to inform themselves with current information that will help improve quality of life with the disease.

It’s a safe environment where you can learn, laugh, and help each other through mutual understanding,” Weir says.

For more information on the Abbotsford groups, contact Weir at 604-859-3889 or jweir@alzheimerbc.org, or visit alzheimerbc.org.