Dementia is an umbrella term that describes symptoms that affect thinking, memory, attention, and logical reasoning. Dementia isn’t a disease, but a set of symptoms caused by various issues.
It can be caused by degenerative neurological diseases (Huntington’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, etc.). It can also occur due to vascular disorders (that affect blood flow to the brain) like head injuries, Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, etc. These forms of dementia are manageable, but irreversible. In certain cases, dementia can be caused by tumors, brain blood clots, vitamin B12 deficiency, low thyroid hormones, etc. In these cases, dementia is reversible with treatment of the underlying cause.
Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia worldwide. Dementia usually affects people 65 and over, as age is a major risk factor. This article will focus on irreversible dementia. Although there isn’t a cure, there may be measures people can take to lessen the likelihood of getting it.
Regular exercise is beneficial for most people and should be incorporated into daily life for optimal health. The Alzheimer’s Research & Prevention Foundation suggests that those who exercise consistently may experience up to a 50% reduction in the likelihood of developing Alzheimer’s. This may happen because exercise increases blood flow, and potentially protective chemicals, in the brain.
People should focus on cardio (to increase blood circulation) and strength training exercises. Strength training helps build better balance, which lessens the risk of major falls. Head trauma has been connected to the development of dementia. Improving balance helps reduce the risk of falls, and therefore brain injuries.
Avoid Head Injuries
As mentioned, major studies have indicated that traumatic brain injuries may be a risk factor for developing dementia. One key study suggested that seniors who sustained moderate to severe brain injuries were 2.3 to 4.5 times more at risk for Alzheimer’s than those who hadn’t. A Swedish study suggested concussions may increase risk of dementia, even years later. Another study posited that boxers who sustained repeated mild head injuries increased risk of chronic traumatic encephalopathy. This condition may cause problems with mood, behavior and thinking. It may progress, resulting in dementia.
To protect again traumatic brain injury:
- Wear a helmet during sporting activities
- Childproof the home (safety locks on windows, baby gates at the top/bottom of stairs, etc.)
- Wear a seatbelt in the car
- Prevent older adult falls
- Wear non-slip shoes on slippery surfaces
- Talk to a doctor about potential side effects of medications (dizziness, drowsiness, etc.)
- Have regular vision and hearing tests
- Exercise regularly to maintain strength and balance
- Use canes and walkers, if necessary
People who exercise their brain may be less prone to developing dementia. “Brain aerobics” refers to any activity that is new or challenging. Ideally, the task will include more than one of the human senses. This can be achieved through participating in activities that require multitasking, problem solving, and communication. The more unfamiliar and challenging the task, the more effort the brain must exert. Puzzles and memory games are just a couple activities that may help promote brain stimulation. People can also learn a new language, take up a new hobby, or add a new challenge to an existing hobby.
Before any new treatment method is released to the general population, it must undergo rigorous testing. This evaluation is to help researchers ascertain how useful the treatment is for its intended cause, as well as how safe it is for human use. Once deemed safe and effective, the product becomes eligible to be approved for distribution. Those interested in dementia prevention may wish to volunteer for medical studies.
Depending on the study, specific eligibility criteria must be met. Taking part in such studies can have beneficial results, the largest being the potential receipt of an effective, innovative treatment. Also, participants will be surrounded by those who are knowledgeable about dementia; any questions or concerns can be accurately addressed. Medical studies are often paid, which helps offset transportation costs and other fees associated with participation.
Dementia is a group of symptoms that impact the brain’s ability to function properly. Effects may include thinking deficits, memory problems, difficulty planning, behavioral changes, etc. No definitive prevention method has been uncovered. However, people can still take steps to lower the risk of developing dementia. Regular exercise, brain stimulation and preventing brain injuries may be helpful. Even if they don’t eliminate the risk of dementia, everyone should do these activities as part of a healthy lifestyle.