Dementia is a term used to describe a broad category of brain disorders that cause gradual memory loss, and/or difficulties with thinking, language, problem-solving, as well as behavioral changes. Alzheimer’s disease is the cause of dementia in 60% to 70% of the cases. Other causes include Parkinson’s disease, thyroid gland problems, head trauma, depression, vascular changes, regular use of medications, and vitamin deficiency.
If the root cause is not treatable, dementia can be a progressive disease, which means that the symptoms will gradually worsen. However, some causes are treatable and dementia is reversible – if it is caused by thyroid gland problems, medications, depression, or vitamin deficiencies.
If you notice any symptom of dementia, it is very important to visit your doctor immediately in order to determine and treat the root cause.
There are many environmental, physiological and lifestyle factors that can contribute to the development of dementia. Some of these risk factors are modifiable, while the others are not. In this article, we will present you 10 simple strategies that will help you deal with the modifiable factors. You may find it hard to believe, but you can significantly reduce the risk of dementia by following these tips.
- Minimize the use of anticholinergic drugs
These drugs inhibit parasympathetic nerve impulses. The parasympathetic nerve system is one of the two main parts of the automatic nervous system. Its function is to manage the activities that happen while the body rests. The nerves in this system are responsible for the involuntary movement of muscles in the lungs, urinary tract, gastrointestinal tract, as well as other body parts.
The majority of over-the-counter and prescribed sleep aids, allergy medications, antidepressants, and heart medications have powerful anticholinergic activity in the body. According to a recent study, regular use of anticholinergic medications significantly increases the risk of dementia. For that reason, many health professionals around the world are trying to educate their patients about the dangers of these medications and how to limit their use. If you currently use anticholinergics, we recommend you to consult with your doctor about how to reduce their usage or change medications.
Click on the following link to see the list of medications that have strong anticholinergic properties: (http://www.virginiageriatrics.org/consult/medications/medsList.html)
- Take vitamin D
Many animal and pre-clinical human studies have found a connection between the low levels of vitamin D and the symptoms that can lead to dementia. In addition to sun exposure, the researchers recommend taking vitamin D supplements as the best preventative measure against the body changes that may cause dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
- Take fish oil
Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) is one of the main fats found in fish oil. Some recent studies have shown a direct correlation between low DHA levels and increased cognitive impairment. Therefore, many experts recommend the use of fish oil as an effective way to prevent the progression of dementia symptoms (it is also good to take fish oil even before you show any signs of dementia). It is important to consult with your doctor before you start taking fish oil because incorrect supplementation may lead to undesired consequences.
- Take a B complex vitamin
Vitamins B12, B6 and folate help reduce the levels of a molecule called homocysteine (HC). A high level of HC significantly increases the risk of stroke, heart disease, or other vascular problems leading to age-related cognitive decline. The best way to reduce HC and prevent its damaging effects is by taking a B complex that contains 500mcg of B12.
- Regular physical activity
Regular physical activity is a great preventative measure for every disease. As a general rule, you should aim for at least thirty minutes of moderate activity such as walking or biking every day.
- Challenge your brain by trying something new, doing crosswords, word puzzles, or learning a new language
One recent study has shown that dementia symptoms occur 5 years later in bilingual people when compared to elderly people who speak only one language. Another study has found that doing regular crossword puzzles delays memory decline by almost 2.5 years.
- Reduce alcohol intake and quit smoking
Smoking and high alcohol consumption are two factors that can lead to the development of many diseases. Recent scientific evidence has shown that smokers are at 45% higher risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease when compared to non-smokers or former smokers. When it comes to alcohol, it is interesting to note that people who drink moderate amounts (one drink per day) are at lowest risk of developing dementia. On the other hand, those who don’t consume any alcohol are at slightly higher risk than moderate drinkers, while people who consume too much alcohol are at highest risk of developing dementia.
- Protect against head injuries for your whole life
Head injuries significantly increase the risk of Alzheimer’s. For that reason, make sure to wear an approved helmet when engaging in sporting activities such as cycling, skateboarding, rollerblading, skating and skiing.
- Stay connected socially and interact with others regularly
Regular interaction with other people protects against the negative effects of loneliness and isolation. You should combine this with physical activity in order to experience extra benefits.
- Try to maintain normal blood pressure, cholesterol, blood glucose and weight
Keeping these parameters of your health in check is of utmost importance since they not only affect your risk of dementia but have an impact on your stroke and heart disease risk too.
Extra tip: A healthy diet rich in fish, leafy greens, nuts, seeds and is also helpful for the prevention of dementia.