Scientific research has shown that physical health affects brain health. We also know that keeping physically healthy means that people can stay active and have better quality of life.
Research consistently shows that people with dementia who exercise regularly are more likely to maintain their cognition, ability to do daily tasks, and live in their own homes. How well the brain works is affected by blood and oxygen flow to the brain. This means that if your heart and cardiovascular system is working better, your brain will get more blood and oxygen. Physical exercise increases blood and oxygen flow to the brain, also improves cardiovascular health, and also helps you stay strong and mobile so you can go about daily life.
Food is brain fuel, and your brain needs enough of the right types of fuel to work optimally. Your diet also affects the chemicals that your body makes including chemicals in the brain (called neurotransmitters).
Sleep is also important for brain health. Scientists think that while you sleep important brain housekeeping happens, such as removing toxins from the brain. There is increasing evidence that getting at least eight hours of sleep reduces the risk of getting dementia, and getting enough sleep is important. Excessive sleep, say more than 10 hours per day, may be a sign of a medical condition.
People who have fewer health conditions, and lower risk factors for heart disease (i.e. they don’t smoke, are not overweight, do not have high cholesterol or diabetes) are less likely to get dementia. While research has not shown that managing existing health conditions and heart disease risk factors will slow deterioration in people with dementia, it’s plausible that this may help.
Watch these inspirational videos
Dementia Australia have shared these videos about people with dementia maintaining their physical and mental health on the Living Well with Dementia website. We will feature individual stories in the following pages in this section.