HSE urges public to nourish their mind ahead of International Brain Awareness Week

Approximately 64,000 people are living with dementia in Ireland today, with numbers expected to more than double to over 150,000 by 2045

Marking International Brain Awareness Week, which runs from March 14 – 20, the HSE’s Dementia: Understand Together campaign is urging people across the country to take steps to protect their brain health and reduce their risk of dementia.

“A Lancet study in 2020 identified 12 modifiable risk factors that could account for 40% of dementia worldwide and we are highlighting a number of these factors, creating awareness of the link with dementia and how people in their midlife can reduce their risk,” a spokesperson said.

According to a nationally representative Behaviour & Attitudes survey undertaken by the Dementia: Understand Together campaign in 2021, many people continue to be unaware of some of the risk factors for dementia. The survey found just 44% of people agreed that not doing physical exercise increases your risk and only 48% agreed that if you eat a healthy diet, you are less likely to experience dementia.

Steps to for patients to maintain Brain Health

Step 1. Be a good sport
Physical activity is very important for brain health. Go for a brisk walk for 30 minutes, five days a week; activities that get the body moving (aerobic) like walking, gardening or housework all count when it comes to boosting brain health.

Step 2. Eat well
Eating a wide variety of nourishing foods provides the energy and nutrients you need to keep your brain healthy. A balanced diet, like the Mediterranean diet, that is rich in vegetables, fruit, wholegrains, and fish, and that is low in salt and sugar, is a good starting point.

Step 3. No Pressure!
Healthy adults above 40 years of age should have their blood pressure (BP) checked annually to see if it is within the healthy range – aiming for a systolic BP of 130 mmHg or less from around 40 years of age. There are many ways to decrease blood pressure such as through exercise, losing weight, reducing salt intake, limiting alcohol and, of course, by taking medication if prescribed.

Step 4. Quit While You’re Ahead!
Quitting smoking may reduce your risk of developing dementia as well as your risk of developing cancers and heart disease. Stop smoking for 28 days and you’re five times more likely to stop for good. Why not sign up for a free, personalised quit plan, including face-to-face support? Visit www.quit.ie, text Quit to 50100, or call the QUIT line on 1800 201 203.

Step 5. Stay Social
Keeping socially engaged helps you to stay mentally sharp. Even just ten 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. Even better, have a walk and a chat together.

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