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3 Ways Nature May Protect Our Brains Against Dementia

We all know the joys of being out in nature. The sights, sounds, smells, and fresh air are great for our state of mind. Research has even shown that simply being able to see nature from inside has a positive impact on our well-being.


In fact, the benefits of time spent outdoors may go deeper than merely improving our mental health. According to a February article from the Washington Post, nature may also help protect against the risk of developing certain neurodegenerative disorders. The article cites a study of almost 62 million adults aged 65+ in the United States and the time they spent in nature or “green spaces” such as parks or gardens. A study in the United Kingdom showed similar results. Those who lived in an area with more green space had a lower rate of hospitalisation for Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias such as vascular dementia and Lewy body dementia. The presence of “blue spaces” like oceans, lakes, and rivers also had an impact, but only on hospitalisations for Parkinson’s disease.

The “whys” behind these results are still being researched, but experts believe that one of the biggest reasons is nature’s ability to reduce stress. We have long known that when we are in nature, our bodies increase their production of certain feel-good hormones and other chemicals. This gives us a natural, lasting boost – increasing our exposure may help us build resilience. The author of the US study, Jochem Klompmaker of Harvard University’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health, also talks about what is missing from the best green spaces. He says that air pollution and noise levels generally,are lower in green environments, and can be mechanisms related to Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.  

How else might time outdoors be good for us?

Dementia Adventure, a UK-based charity, credits the role of being active while outdoors, exposure to fresh air and light, and the opportunity to make lasting pleasant memories as additional ways the outdoors can be beneficial. Read on to see how these three factors might contribute.

1. Being Active Outdoors

Besides increasing the flow of blood and oxygen to the brain, being active outdoors can:

  • Reduce inflammation in the body. This has been linked to cognitive decline and the development of Alzheimer’s disease.
  • Promote neuroplasticity. The brain’s ability to adapt and change in response to new experiences. Outdoor activities that challenge the brain, such as hiking or learning a sport, can promote neuroplasticity and improve cognitive function.
  • Increase our intake of vitamin D. This has been linked to a reduced risk of cognitive decline and Alzheimer’s disease.

 Yes, running five miles is one definition of being active outdoors if that's not you, no worries, walking is considered an active activity and is highly encouraged!

2. Getting Fresh Air and Natural Light

Every parent who takes their child outside knows these benefits. Turns out this works for older people, too.

  • Improves mood. Exposure to natural light and fresh air can improve mood and reduce the risk of depression, which has been linked to an increased risk of cognitive decline and Alzheimer’s disease.
  • Improves sleep. Exposure to natural light can help regulate the body’s circadian rhythms and improve sleep, which is important for brain health.
  • Stimulates the brain. Being in nature can stimulate the brain and provide new and varied sensory experiences. That, in turn, can promote neuroplasticity, which we can also think of as resilience, and improve cognitive function.

Even on days when you do not leave your home, nature can work for you. Spend some time looking out a window and if your front or back door is open, take a few deep breaths.

3. Creating Lasting Pleasant Memories

More research is needed to fully understand the impact of Alzheimer’s on memory. But we do know that happy memories in general contribute to our resilience and mental well-being. For someone at risk of developing Alzheimer’s, happy memories may offer these benefits.

  • Provides a positive outlook. Focusing on cheerful memories can provide a positive outlook on life, which has been linked to better cognitive function and a reduced risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.
  • Increases social engagement. Sharing nice memories is a great way to talk and connect with other people. That has been linked to better cognitive function and a reduced risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.

Many joyful memories are made while we are outside: taking the kids to the park, beach holidays or trips to national parks. There is no reason the fun or the memories have to end.

How Right at Home Can Help

Right at Home Australia’s professional caregivers are happy to help our clients get outdoors and enjoy nature. From sitting on the porch to taking a walk in a nearby park, we are here for you and your loved ones and can help with ambulation and fall prevention.

Keep up to date with COVID 19 information on the following links: 

Australian Government Department of Health 

Victorian Health and Human Services 

NSW Health 

Queensland Health 

ACT Health 

WA Department of Health 

Tasmanian Department of Health 

Northern Territory Department of Health 

SA Health 

Founded in 1995, Right at Home offers in-home companionship and personal care, and assistance to seniors (elderly and aged care), and any adult who needs our care at home including adults living with a disability who want to continue to live independently or age in their home. Right at Home is your local expert for issues related to caring for your loved ones and is dedicated to keeping you informed about home care. With no package management fees Right at Home allows you to get more care from your package or budget. 

Right at Home is a 'My Aged Care' government approved, home care provider for levels 1 – 4 and offers flexible in-home care services such as nursing care, after hospital care, post-operative care, respite care, dementia and Alzheimer's care. Right at Home also offers assistance with daily living and personal care such as grooming, hygiene, transport, shopping, meal prep, domestic services and social support, so your loved one can enjoy a more independent, vibrant life. Our nurses and caregivers are screened, highly trained, and insured prior to entering your home so you can trust us with the caregiving while you focus on your loved one. 

To find out more, please give us a call on 1300 363 802 or visit our website. 

Right at Home Offices in Australia: Adelaide Central; Brisbane Bayside; Brisbane North; Brisbane South; Brisbane West; Central Queensland & Wide Bay; Darling Downs; Far North Queensland; Gold Coast North; Gold Coast South; Greater Logan; Mackay; Moreton Bay Region; Noosa, Gympie & Hinterland; Sunshine Coast; Townsville; Central West New South Wales; Gosford; Hunter & Port Stephens; Macarthur Penrith; Newcastle; Northern Rivers; Padstow St George; Southern NSW; Sydney Central & Eastern Suburbs; Sydney Inner West; Sydney Liverpool; Sydney Lower North Shore; Sydney Norwest; Sydney Northern Beaches; Sydney Parramatta; Sydney Ryde; Sydney The Hills; Sydney Upper North Shore; Kalgoorlie Wheatbelt; Perth Como; Perth Midland; Perth Northern Suburbs; Perth West Coast; Southwest Victoria 


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