Dementia 101: Can Dementia be Prevented?
7 Ways to Prevent Dementia
- More Education in Early Years
- Maintain a Healthy Weight
- Prevent and Treat Hypertension
- Treat Hearing Loss
- Stop Smoking
- Treat Depression
- Prevent or Manage Diabetes
The chances of getting Alzheimer’s Disease or other forms of dementia later in life is a terrifying to many people. People fear to lose themselves and being a burden to their family members. Many have already watched dementia take older family members.
In recent years more and more cases of dementia have developed. We are living longer and surviving diseases like heart disease, diabetes, and cancer that quickly killed our ancestors. However, it appears that dementia has a lifestyle component as well.
We can take steps in our lives to reduce our chances of developing dementia. According to a recent report by the Lancet Commission on Dementia Prevention and Care, as many as one-third of dementia cases can be prevented by lifestyle changes. If you did not take healthy steps recommended for early or midlife, you can still make changes in your senior years that will help delay or prevent the development of dementia.
What are those steps? Some will be familiar from all sorts of general healthy lifestyle recommendations, but a few will surprise you!
More Education in Early Years
Scientists recommend that staying in school at least until age 15 in order to help prevent dementia later in life. Why is this? The more education at a younger age builds a stronger brain that is more able to cope with and work around the damage caused by dementia. This means that two people may have the same “amount” of dementia going on, but the one that has had more education will show symptoms later and with less severity.
Maintain a Healthy Weight
There is a strong connection between obesity and poor physical condition and dementia. Part of the reason for this is the overall strain placed on the body’s systems as a whole. Research shows that diets high in sugar may have a connection to the kind of brain damage that leads to dementia. It’s best to stay at a healthy weight throughout life. If you lose weight and get healthier in middle age or senior years, it still increases your chances of avoiding dementia.
Prevent and Treat Hypertension
Hypertension, or high blood pressure, often called a silent killer, can do a lot of damage to the body before any symptoms show. When you have high blood pressure your body has to work harder to circulate the blood. This causes wear and tear throughout the body, including the brain. Hypertension can be prevented or decreased through healthy lifestyle choices. Smoking, losing weight and finding ways to control stress levels can decrease hypertension. If you do develop hypertension, it’s important to keep it controlled through medication.
Treat Hearing Loss
Over two-thirds of seniors citizens experience moderate to severe hearing loss later in life, but this loss begins to be noticeable in middle age. Most people put off hearing loss until it is more of a handicap. And some never get hearing aids or other assistance. It seems that treating hearing loss through hearing aids, as well as taking better care to prevent hearing loss in the first place, has a significant effect on your chances of developing dementia. Scientists think this is possible that people with untreated hearing loss tend to become isolated from social events. This includes friends and family because they can’t hear what’s going on. Isolation and lack of social interaction is a large risk factor for dementia. Preventing social isolation by preventing and treating hearing loss is important.
The health risks of cigarette smoking are well known and plentiful. Smoking also can increase your chances of developing dementia. If you have never smoked, don’t start! And if you do smoke, quitting, even later in life, improves your odds of avoiding dementia.
Many seniors develop moderate depression. Untreated depression can be connected to leaving work, changing relationships with family members, and grief over deaths of friends and family members. Like hearing loss, depression tends to lead to greater isolation and decreased activity, which in turn increases the risk of dementia.
Prevent or Manage Diabetes
If you do not have diabetes as a senior, continue taking steps through healthy diet and exercise to prevent diabetes from developing. Even if you do have it, however, manage it aggressively so that glucose levels stay fairly stable. This prevents damage to the circulation and brain that can increase your chances of dementia.
By taking simple preventative steps throughout life, you can look forward to living a long time with a healthy body AND a healthy mind.