At last, some good news. For the past three decades, the number of people diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and other dementias has been declining across high income countries. Scientists speculate that this is due to a drop in rates of smoking, better treatment of high blood pressure and increasing awareness of the need to remain mentally stimulated. Higher socioeconomic status is also linked to better medical services, green spaces and community clubs that promote exercise, volunteering and social engagement. All these factors contribute to better brain function.
Research estimates that at least 40% of all dementias can be attributed to modifiable risk factors such as poor sleep, chronic depression, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, loneliness, sedentary living and loss of meaning and purpose. In light of this, researchers at Monash University developed the BetterBrains trial, which I wrote about earlier this year. The trial is designed to investigate whether a personalised lifestyle intervention program targeting modifiable dementia risk factors can help protect memory and thinking abilities over a 24-month period. The online intervention aims to help individuals make sustainable changes to their lifestyle to improve their brain health. If randomised to the intervention, participants are given the opportunity to work one-on-one with an allied health coach to set and achieve goals to modify their lifestyle, completely free of charge.
The BetterBrains trial is currently recruiting again, so if you haven’t already signed up, the team would love to hear from you if you fulfil the following criteria:
- You’re aged between 40 and 70 years
- You are currently living in Australia
- You have a first- or second-degree family history of Alzheimer’s or other dementias
- You have access to a desktop or laptop computer
- You want to make changes to your lifestyle to reduce your risk of dementia.
Visit www.betterbrains.org.au and click on the ‘SIGN UP’ button. You can also email the BetterBrains team at firstname.lastname@example.org. Even if you are over 70 years, send them a message to ask if they will nonetheless accept you into the study.
By making even small changes to our habits and behaviours, we can improve our brain health more than we realise.
The team from BetterBrains also recently held a public seminar that discussed cutting-edge research in the field of dementia prevention. You can find a recording of the forum here:
The recording is almost 2 hours long, but it is well organised into six bite-sized sessions with a great Q&A at the end. You don’t have to listen to everything in one sitting. Absorb one lecture at a time, reflect on what it means for you, then come back to the next lecture at a later date. Simply watching the sessions will boost your brain. One point in the video which I’d like to comment on is the statement that a high body mass index (BMI) is a risk factor for dementia. Waist circumference (visceral fat) reflects brain health much better than body weight. Aim for less than 94cm around your waist if you are a man, and less than 80cm if you are a woman. A bigger waist circumference begins to increase our risk of all chronic diseases including Alzheimer’s. Meanwhile, I applaud the BetterBrains research team for challenging the narrative that cognition declines with age. With age comes wisdom, insight and an enhanced capacity to see the bigger picture. Think bolder, not older!
Please forward this Health-e-Byte to anyone who wants to learn more about dementia (especially Alzheimer’s) and would be interested in participating in the BetterBrains trial.