Does binge watching TV increase your risk for dementia?
It’s a common disease that over 55 million adults battle worldwide, and every 3 seconds, another person is diagnosed. Dementia refers to the “loss of memory, language, problem-solving and other thinking abilities severe enough to interfere with one’s daily life,” according to the Alzheimer’s Association.
Naturally, many have searched for ways to reduce their risk and often consult their doctors on new diets, cognitive brain activities and additional ways to keep their brain sharp and alert into their advanced age. However, a study suggests even those with an active lifestyle can be at an increased risk of dementia depending on how they spend their “leisure” time.
Those who spent their resting time watching TV versus being on the computer experienced a higher risk of dementia. This finding suggests that dementia risk increases with leisure activities that are more “passive” or engage the brain minimally.
Dr. Darren Gitelman, senior medical director of Advocate Memory Center at Advocate Health Care, advises patients to consider several factors that may reduce one’s risk for dementia if practiced regularly:
- Participating in regular physical exercise: Dr. Gitelman advises starting out slowly, so exercising regularly is sustainable, and building to about 150 minutes weekly. Always check with your doctor before starting a new exercise program.
- Participating in cognitively engaging activities: “The key is to do things that engage the brain in active thought and avoid repetitive activities,” Dr. Gitelman says. Even while physically resting, Dr. Gitelman recommends reading, writing, puzzles, artistic activities, attending lectures and learning a language or musical instrument as a great starting point.
- Eating a healthy diet: Dr. Gitelman encourages the Mediterranean, MIND or DASH diet to keep the brain healthy. He also stresses the importance of eliminating smoking and limiting alcohol consumption to 1-2 drinks a day (1 for women and 2 for men).
- Getting a healthy amount of sleep: It’s recommended that young adults receive 7-9 hours of quality sleep per night, and adults 65 and older receive 7-8 hours of quality sleep per night, according to the National Sleep Foundation