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A daily swim in cold water could help keep dementia at bay

Researchers find high levels of a "cold-shock" protein in the blood of regular winter swimmers. This protein has been shown to slow the onset of dementia.

Dementia is a disease that causes loss of memory, language, problem-solving and other thinking abilities. This results from damage to brain cells. While it mainly affects older people, dementia is not a normal part of ageing. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), around 50 million people are living with dementia worldwide, and nearly 10 million new cases are reported every year. Several studies have suggested that staying physically active and exercising regularly help reduce the risk of developing dementia. But what type of exercise would be best to prevent cognitive decline? Swim in cold water daily.

Researchers from Cambridge University have suggested that swimming in cold water may protect the brain from degenerative diseases like dementia. In a study, they found a high level of a "cold-shock" protein in the blood of regular winter swimmers at London's Parliament Hill Lido in north London. This protein has been shown to slow the onset of dementia and even repair some of the damage it causes in mice.

Professor Giovanna Mallucci, centre director of the UK Dementia Research Institute at Cambridge University, said the discovery could lead to new drug treatments to delay dementia.

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Other ways to reduce your risk of dementia

Being physically active is good for your heart, circulation, weight, and mental wellbeing. Apart from regular physical activity, eating a healthy diet and avoiding unhealthy habits can go a long way in helping reduce your risk of dementia.

Eat a balanced diet

Make sure you have at least five portions of fruit and vegetables a day. Include protein-rich foods such as oily fish, beans, pulses, eggs or meat to your diet as well as starchy foods like bread, potatoes and pasta.

Limit intake of sugar and saturated fat. Drink 6 8 glasses of fluid (such as water, low-fat milk and sugar-free drinks) a day.

Quit smoking

Smoking can put you at a higher risk of developing dementia and other conditions, including type 2 diabetes, stroke and lung cancer.

When you smoke, your arteries may become narrower, which can raise your blood pressure. This can also affect the circulation of blood around the body, including the blood vessels in the brain, as well as the heart and lungs.

Limit alcohol consumption

Drinking too much alcohol can increase your risk of stroke, heart disease and some cancers. Alcohol in excessive amounts can also damage your nervous system, including your brain, and increase your risk of developing dementia. Drink no more than 14 units each week and spread your drinking over 3 or more days.

Exercise your mind

Keep your mind active to keep dementia at bay. Do things that challenge your brain regularly. For example, learn a new language, do puzzles, crosswords or quizzes, play card games or board games or read challenging books or write. This can help build up the brain's ability to cope with the disease. Be socially active as talking and communicating with other people can keep your brain healthy and delay cognitive decline. Try to spend more time with friends and family. Taking part in charity events and joining a club or community group are great ways to stay socially active.

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