Simple Ways To Prevent Dementia In Old Age

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Prevent the risk of developing dementia in old age with six easy ways that will improve your brain health. Ian MacKenzie

Currently, an estimated 5.3 million elderly Americans live with Alzheimer's dementia and many more live with other forms of dementia, impairing a person's physical and mental abilities, including Huntington's disease and vascular dementia. Cognitive functioning and behavioral development begin to falter as the damage to brain cells disrupts a person's psyche, says the Alzheimer's Association.

According to Alzheimer's Society in the U.K., the number of people with dementia is expected to double because people are living longer. As one downside to having longer lifespans, women have a higher lifetime risk than men of developing Alzheimer's, which may be precipitated by a drop in estrogen, the primary female sex hormone, experienced during menopause.

Gains in average life expectancy are not the sole driver behind the increase in Americans with dementia; other illnesses have been shown to increase risk. If a person has diabetes before the age of 65, their risk for dementia doubles. In a study published in the issue of Neurology, researchers examined the relationship between diabetes as a risk factor for dementia in a group of 1,301 community dwellers 75 years and older in Stockholm, Sweden. They found that diabetes is indeed associated with an increased risk for dementia, especially vascular dementia — when the brain's blood supply is interrupted — in very old people.

Furthermore, the risk for dementia significantly increases when diabetes occurs simultaneously with severe systolic hypertension and cardiovascular disease. "[P]eople who know they are at risk of vascular dementia can act to help delay or even prevent symptoms if they eat well, take exercise and don't smoke," Dr. Charles Alessi, an adviser for Public Health England, told the BBC. While there is no known cure to dementia or specific treatment sufferers can follow, there are easy ways to prevent and alleviate symptoms of the disease in old age.

Eat A Mediterranean Diet

Consuming fruits, vegetables, lean protein, and healthy fats, such as omega-3 fatty acids, can help reduce inflammation of the brain. The rich fatty acid is seen as a dietary intervention to reduce the risk of dementia with regular consumption. In a study published in the journal of the American Academy of Neurology, researchers examined the relationship between the Mediterranean diet and the likelihood of incident cognitive impairment to evaluate race and vascular risk factors. A total of 17,478 individuals with an average age of 64 participated in the study. The study showed that higher consumption of the Mediterranean diet was associated with a lower likelihood of cognitive impairment.

Get 8 Hours Of Sleep

Dementia and sleep are closely associated with one another; the lack of sleep can increase your risk of dementia later in life. Sufferers of the disease tend to have a sleep pattern that is irregular, generally feeling sleepy during the day with difficulty falling asleep for long periods at night, reports the Sleep Health Foundation. The organization that raises awareness of sleep health suggests that dementia sufferers get into sleep and wake patterns that reflect sleep habits prior to diagnosis of the disease, with the help of their loved ones. To get people living with dementia to develop a healthy sleeping pattern, 45-minute naps can vastly improve memory, according to an article by Matthew A. Tucker, PhD and William Fishbein, PhD.

Get Out There and Socialize

Socialization has been been shown to help people sharpen their mental acuity. In a study published in the American Journal of Public Health, researchers followed women who were free of dementia symptoms and at least 78 years old. Over the course of five years of follow-up interviews, there were 268 new dementia cases out of the 2,249 women who began the study. 

After analyzing the effects of socialization, researchers found that 80 out of 456 women who did not socialize much, or 18 percent, developed dementia. In contrast, 188 out of 1793 women who confided in a number of friends and family members, or 10 percent, developed dementia. Remaining as an active member in society and socializing with those around you can help improve your cognitive functioning and behavioral development to reduce the risk of dementia even at old age

 

Sources: Crooks VC, Lubben J, Petitti DB, Little D, Chiu V. Social network, cognitive function, and dementia incidence among elderly women. Am J Public Health. 2008.

Tsivgoulis G, Judd S, Letter AJ, Alexandrov AV, Howard G, Nahab F, Unverzagt FW, Moy C, Howard VJ, Kissela B, Wadley VG. Adherence to a Mediterranean diet and risk of incident cognitive impairment. Neurology. 2013.

Tucker MA and Fishbein W. Enhancement of Declarative Memory Performance Following a Daytime Nap Is Contingent on Strength of Initial Task Acquisition. Sleep. 2008. 

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