Alzheimer’s disease is a devastating condition. It robs the person of their memories and their family connections. For the family and loved ones the slow and cruel decline of a cherished family member is stressful and sometimes overwhelming.

While the exact cause of the disease is still not well understood, it is known that Alzheimer’s affects the memory holding part of the brain. One particular region, known as the hippocampus, is responsible for memory, learning and balance.

But studies have shown that some activities can help keep the memory more active for longer, and so help to reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.

Dancing can challenge your mind as well as your muscles. It has been found to stimulate the part of your brain that is associated with memory by increasing neuron connectivity. The more connectivity there is, the better your hippocampus will function.

In a 21-year study by the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York City suggests that stimulating our mind by dancing can ward off Alzheimer’s disease and other dementia. In other words, just as physical exercise keeps the body fit, dancing can keep the brain fit for longer.

The study, which involved ballroom dancing among other activities, found that taking part in some activities reduced the risk of Alzheimer’s by the following percentages:

Ballroom dancing – 76%
Crossword puzzles – 47%
Reading – 35%
Cycling, swimming, golf – 0%

The study found that seniors who took part in regular dancing developed more resistance to dementia. The study also found that doing crossword puzzles at least four times a week reduces the risk of dementia.

So activities that challenge the mind and help to make new neural connections can help to protect the brain in the long run by stimulating the central nervous system and brain activity.

In order to keep your memory and brain in good form for longer, it’s important to do what you can to reduce the risks of Alzeheimer’s by following a lifestyle that stimulates your mind and memory, and here are four tips to help:

1. Keep mentally active

Keeping your mind active is likely to reduce your risk of dementia. Regularly challenging yourself mentally seems to build up the brain’s ability to cope with disease. One way to think about it is ‘Use it or lose it’.

Learn a new skill to keep your brain stimulated. Whether that’s crossword puzzles, learning a foreign language or by learning new steps and movements.

2. Be physically active

Doing regular physical activity is one of the best ways to reduce your risk of dementia. There is convincing evidence that physical exercise helps prevent the development of Alzheimer’s or slow the progression in people who have symptoms. It’s also good for your heart, circulation, weight and mental wellbeing.

3. Establish a Routine

Have a routine that includes moving and mingling with others. This will benefit both body and brain. Routines that include dance and socialising benefit your mind. Find something you like doing that challenges your brain and do it regularly.

4. Eat healthily

A healthy, balanced diet may reduce your risk of dementia, as well as other conditions including cancer, type 2 diabetes, obesity, stroke and heart disease. According to Harvard Health eating a Mediterranean diet can thwart Alzheimer’s or slow its progression. The diet includes fresh vegetables and fruits; whole grains; olive oil; nuts; legumes; fish; moderate amounts of poultry, eggs, and dairy; moderate amounts of red wine; and red meat only sparingly.

It doesn’t matter if you’re an old hand or a novice; ballroom dancing can help to protect you from the debilitating effects that come with Alzheimer’s disease.

Terri Bodell is a qualified CBT psychotherapist, FitSteps instructor and Principal of Nicks Dance School in Potters Bar. These days her focus is back to dancing as she is completely dedicated to continuing the legacy of her fiancé Nick Peacock with whom she set up Nicks Dance School and who sadly passed away.