Sat | Oct 24, 2020

Women, stay mentally active to prevent dementia!

Published:Wednesday | August 10, 2011 | 12:00 AM

I am a member of a service Club, the Rotary Club of Kingston. Outside of my family life, it is the most meaningful activity that I am involved in during my non-work hours. It has provided me with rewarding friendships, stimulating conversations as well as numerous opportunities to develop and participate in service projects.

Many working mothers may feel unable to participate in such organisations because of the heavy demands of work and family life. However, the benefits of organisations such as these may far exceed one's expectations.

A research study from Europe showed that physical, mental and social leisure activities help to prevent dementia, but activities which combine all three are most effective in reducing the risk of dementia. Many service clubs have activities that offer this combination.

Dementia is a progressive loss in brain function which can have a variety of causes, some of which are treatable and others which are not. Dementia in general, and Alzheimer's disease, one of the most common causes of dementia, occurs more often in women than in men. In the past it was widely believed, based on preliminary studies, that oestrogen therapy after the menopause would decrease a woman's risk of developing dementia. Unfortunately a large study published in the early 2000s showed an increased risk of dementia in women age 65 or older who were treated with oestrogen and progestin therapy. This disappointing result dashed hopes of a safe and effective medication to help prevent dementia.

Exercise and education

However, as I mentioned previously, some lifestyle changes have effectively reduced the risk and hence prevented dementia in some people. Studies continue to reinforce that exercise is an effective tool in the prevention of dementia and multiple other health problems. As such, women should continue or start to exercise at least 30 minutes per day for about five days per week.

Improving one's level of education and involvement with intellectually stimulating activities also appear to decrease the risk of developing dementia. Activities such as reading, playing cards and board games are among specific activities that may be helpful.

Damaged blood vessels

Dementia can occur when damage to certain blood vessels affect the brain. Therefore, women with conditions that affect their blood vessels, such as diabetes and hypertension, should be diligent about controlling these illnesses and perhaps spare themselves from being a victim of dementia.

The members of my service club range in age from 30s to 90s.

Most of the older members who are still very active in the club have been members for many years. That long-term membership may not only have increased their motivation to remain active in the club but also enhanced their capacity to do so.

My advice to women of any age is to involve yourself in activities such as a service club and/or your church to preserve your mental capacities. Regardless of your age, it is still very likely that you can find the right environment for you. As women, let's not only strive to preserve healthy bodies, but also to preserve healthy minds.

Dr Monique Rainford is a consulting obstetrician and gynaecologist; email: