Dementia is not a specific disease but rather a group of symptoms that are associated with cognitive decline and memory deterioration that, in some cases, can be severe enough to reduce a person’s ability to perform daily tasks. Alzheimer’s disease, is one of the many forms of dementia but is the most prevalent, accounting for 60 to 80 percent of all cases.
Alzheimer’s disease is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States and is the only top 10 cause of death in the United States that cannot be cured. According to Alzheimer’s Disease International, there are over 9.9 million new cases of dementia each year and the estimated worldwide cost of the condition was expected to reach over $1 trillion in 2018.
While there are no clear-cut answers to whether Alzheimer’s and dementia can be prevented, there are studies being done to address risk factors that lead to dementia. While there is no clear solution, there are a number of measures that can be taken that can improve physical and mental capabilities and may prove to be effective in reducing risk of dementia.
Things like age and genetics are two of the most common risk factors associated with dementia, these types of characteristics are impossible to change. However, there are a number of other health risks that can have an impact on brain health and the prevention of dementia.
The cardiovascular system is instrumental when it comes to brain health as the blood vessels in the body are what supplies the brain with oxygen-rich blood. Changes in the blood vessels are linked to vascular dementia and are normally present in Alzheimer’s and dementia with Lewy bodies.
Physical exercise and maintaining overall health is something that can help to lower the risk of some types of dementia. Because exercise can benefit brain cells by increasing blood and oxygen flow to the brain, it may be effective in being a proper preventative measure to reduce the risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s.
There is a growing body of research that suggest that there are a number of diets that can encourage heart-healthy eating patterns to protect the brain. Some eating habits, like the Mediterranean diet. The Mediterranean diet includes relatively little red meat with an emphasis on whole grains, fruits and vegetables, fish and shellfish, nuts and other healthy fats.
As mentioned earlier, there is no proven intervention in preventing or halting dementia and dementia-related problems. However, there are a number of things that you can do to help with your physical and mental health that may end up being effective in reducing the risk of dementia, if not, they are still changes that will promote healthy living.
We have discussed the role that exercise can play in improving cardiovascular health which, in turn, can lead to increased protection of the brain against dementia-related issues. However, it is worth noting that seniors should be participating in flexibility, endurance, strength, and balance exercises that can be important for preventing health risks like falls.
According to the Alzheimer’s Society, there is strong evidence that says that smoking can increase your risk of dementia. Some data suggests that 14 percent of Alzheimer’s disease are potentially attributed to smoking. While quitting smoking may reduce the risk of dementia, it can have numerous benefits for your health overall, including:
- Decreased heart risks
- Lower cholesterol
- Stop lung damage
- Lower cancer risk
- Stronger muscles and bones
- Stronger immune system and more
As mentioned before, there is some evidence that shows that a diet full of rich in fruit and vegetables, and low in red meat and sugar can help to reduce dementia risks. The reason that eating habits like the Mediterranean diet can have an impact on reducing the risk of dementia is because increasing the intake of foods that have high levels of antioxidants can help to protect against some of the damage to brain cells associated with Alzheimer’s.
There are some studies that say working on strengthening the brain through exercises and memory tricks is associated with better cognitive functioning, reduced cognitive decline, and a reduced risk of developing dementia. One study published in the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry found that working on memory tasks that gradually got harder resulted in a stronger working memory. Some activities that can exercise the brain and have been associated with reduced dementia risk include:
- Learning a new language
- Playing instruments
- Board games
- Crossword puzzles
- Sudoku and more
While there is still more research that needs to be done when it comes to preventing Alzheimer’s and other dementia-related diseases, participating in any of these suggestions would be effective in helping anyone live an overall healthier lifestyle.
Many of these lifestyle changes would help to reduce the risk of cardiovascular problems, increase physical and mental health, and strengthen the body to reduce other health risks.
Dementia is a group of symptoms that are characterized by a decline in cognitive and memory capabilities. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common forms of dementia and impacts millions of people worldwide, including 5.7 million Americans, with that number likely to rise to 14 million by 2050. There is no cure for the disease, and while there is some evidence that certain lifestyle changes can be effective in reducing the risk of dementia, there is nothing concrete that people can do to fully avert the condition completely. However, making dietary changes, getting more exercise, and quitting smoking are all things that can have major benefits to physical and mental health that may turn out to be effective in reducing the risk of dementia.
Dementia and Alzheimer’s make it more difficult to perform daily tasks and may make the assistance of a caregiver or medical staff necessary. If you think that your loved one may be dealing with a form of dementia, assisted living may be the answer. At Landmark Senior Living, we can help your loved one as they continue on in the later stages of their life.