Give your brain a workout

This week is National Brain Awareness Week
  • Deborah Condon

People are being encouraged to give their brains a workout in order to reduce their risk of developing dementia.

This week is National Brain Awareness Week and as part of the event, the Dementia: Understand Together campaign is calling on people to keep their brains fit and healthy and reduce their risk of dementia.

An average of 11 people develop dementia every day in Ireland and this figure is set to increase as our population ages, warned consultant psychiatrist, Prof Brian Lawlor, who is chair of the Dementia: Understand Together campaign.

"Despite this, our research reveals that only one in every two people are aware of the things they can do to help reduce their risk of dementia.

"This week, we are encouraging people to learn more about dementia and the things they can do to keep their brain fit and healthy. Simple things like going for a brisk walk every day, doing crosswords, staying social by meeting up with friends and family, and looking at what you eat and how much you drink, will make a difference to your brain and your body in general," Prof Lawlor explained.

While we cannot do anything about some dementia risk factors, such as age and our genes, there is increasing evidence that leading a healthy, active lifestyle may help maintain brain health and reduce the risk of developing the disease.

The Dementia: Understand Together campaign offers the following six simple tips to help reduce your risk:

- Get physically active: Go for a brisk walk for 30 minutes, five days a week. A brisk walk that raises your heart rate but does not leave you breathless is good for both your cardiovascular and brain health

-Keep your brain active: Everyday activities such as going to work, reading, playing cards, doing crosswords, or playing a musical instrument, all keep your brain active. These activities should be a bit challenging but still enjoyable

-Stay social: Keeping socially engaged helps you to stay mentally sharp. Even just 10 minutes of social interaction can greatly increase your brain performance, so just calling a friend or family member for a quick chat can improve your brain health

-Quit smoking: It is a difficult habit to break but it can be done. With the help of the HSE QUIT team you can double your chances of quitting. Call the team on 1800 201 203 or text for free on 50100 to receive a call back

-Know your blood pressure: Healthy blood pressure is important not just for your heart but also for your brain health. You should get your blood pressure checked every time you visit your doctor, or at least once every six months.

-Healthy eating and less alcohol: A balanced diet that is rich in vegetables, fruit, wholegrains, dairy, lean meats, poultry and fish is a good starting point. Eating healthy food combined with reducing alcohol consumption is important for both the body and brain.

National Brain Awareness Week runs from March 11-18.

The Dementia: Understand Together campaign is part of an ongoing initiative led by the HSE in partnership with the Alzheimer Society of Ireland and Genio. For more information on it, click here.

If you are worried that you or a loved one is experiencing symptoms of dementia, you should speak to your GP. You can also contact a dementia advisor on 1800 341 341. Calls are free of charge.


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