Working up a sweat may help prevent dementia

Dementia ambassadors Stephen Newman, Trish Monahan and Donna Lee (right) with WSLHD dementia advisor Sue Tolhurst (second from right).

Gardening may help prevent or delay dementia, a forum in Rooty Hill has heard.

The research suggests that diet, exercise and social engagement are all key for brain health, making motivation a key theme of the third annual We Matter forum.

The forum, run by Western Sydney Local Health District and Anglicare, featured presenters with early-stage dementia Stephen Newman and Donna Lee.

They discussed how they stay motivated to remain socially, physically and mentally active, and attendees also heard from carers and healthcare professionals.

Sue Tolhurst and Trish Monahan share their own experiences of staying motivated.

WSLHD dementia advisor Sue Tolhurst said there was great energy among the 64 people who attended the two-day event at Rooty Hill Novotel last week.

“Many of the presenters shared what motivates them to make positive lifestyle choices, and encouraged people to discover their own motivation,” Sue said.

“For most people that means a combination of doing things you enjoy and doing things that give you a sense of purpose and fulfilment.”

Geriatric medicine staff specialist Dr Amanda Chiu said the current research suggests healthy lifestyle choices including diet, exercise and social engagement not only have a positive impact on quality of life, but can also reduce the risk of developing dementia and may even slow the progression of symptoms.

Forum speakers practiced what they preached on the day, with plenty of breaks to allow for mental rest and conversation.

The short sessions and regular breaks helped ensure the event was accessible for people living with dementia.

The forum also provided the opportunity for people to immediately put the lessons into practice, with a basic tai chi session, a dance floor and plenty of time for discussion.

“I always tell people a conversation is the second best thing for your brain,” Sue said.

“And the best thing is an argument.”

WSLHD will be hosting another dementia information forum at the Westmead Hospital Education Conference Centre on Friday, June 21.

For more information about this event, as well as the regular support groups for people living with dementia and carers, please contact Sue at