Dementia is one of the world’s fastest emerging health problems. This illness, which is known to cause memory and cognitive problems, already affects around 50 million individuals worldwide. Additionally, almost 10 million new cases of dementia are identified each year, and the number of dementia patients is predicted to increase over the next 30 years.
There are many factors that can lead anyone to dementia. Want to know the details of each? Read our article about dementia and its signs to be watchful for.
HOW TO LOWER THE RISK OF DEMENTIA
There is currently no cure for dementia, so strategies to prevent the condition through lifestyle changes are essential.
Certain varieties of dementia are caused by conditions beyond your control. However, there are several steps you may take to reduce your risk of dementia and preserve general health. Even if treatment for dementia is discovered, it would be preferable if we could prevent it from occurring in the first place. There was a guideline posted by the World Health Organization. Here are five healthy behaviors the WHO suggests adopting today to safeguard your brain and cut down the risk of dementia.
1. Follow a Balanced Nutrient-Dense Diet
Reduction in Unsaturated Fats. It has been proven in many types of research that People who consume a lot of saturated and trans fats (which are found in hydrogenated vegetable oils) have a higher chance of acquiring dementia, whereas those who consume a lot of unsaturated, un-hydrogenated fats have a reduced risk. Butter, lard, pork, full-fat dairy products, coconut oil, palm oil, and chocolate are all high in saturated fat. Trans fats are frequently utilized in some fast-food restaurants, snack meals, fried foods, and professionally baked items such as cakes and cookies. Additionally, these processed meals may be heavy in sodium and/or sugar. Consume these meals in limit and wherever feasible, go for low-fat alternatives.
Add More Mono and Polyunsaturated Fats. Consuming more monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats has been linked to a decreased risk of dementia. These fats may raise HDL cholesterol levels, which may aid in brain protection. Foods high in protective unsaturated fats include:
• Olive oil and olives
• Some kinds of margarine and vegetable oils
• Nuts and seeds
Omega-3 Fatty Acids. Because omega-3 is an important fatty acid, it must be received from food because the body does not produce it. According to several studies, consuming more omega-3 fatty acids is related to a lower risk of acquiring dementia. Omega-3 fatty acids may preserve blood vessels and prevent inflammation in the brain. They may also function in brain growth and the maintenance of healthy nerve cells. The significance of omega-3 fats in the brain is still being studied. Food sources of omega-3 fatty acids include the following;
• Fish (especially oily seafood like salmon, sardines, mackerel, and tuna). According to some studies, eating fish twice a week may help lessen your chance of acquiring Alzheimer’s disease.
• Flaxseed (linseed) oil
Get More of Fruits and Veggies. It was found in another research that increasing the fruit and vegetable diet by 100 g per day resulted in a about 13% reduction in the incidence of cognitive impairment and dementia.
Don’t Forget the Flavonoids. Flavonoids are responsible for the vibrant hues of fruits and vegetables. There is emerging evidence that flavonoids are supercharged when it comes to reducing cognitive decline as we age. Flavanols appear to increase blood flow to the brain, as new research reveals.
- Flavones, a kind of flavonoid found in yellow and orange fruits and vegetables, were found to reduce risk by 38%.
- Other types of flavonoids such as Anthocyanins, which are found in blueberries, blackberries, and cherries, were found to reduce risk by 24%.
- Cocoa flavanols, in two experiments, 18 healthy people received cocoa flavanols. In one, they drank a cocoa drink with 681 mg flavanols. They had a cocoa drink with 4 mg flavanols in it. Two hours later, participants breathed carbon dioxide-rich air to boost their blood levels above normal. (High blood CO2 levels cause the brain to increase blood flow and oxygen intake.) The researchers next assessed cognitive function by measuring brain oxygenation and administering mental tests. High flavanol consumption resulted in quicker brain oxygenation than low flavanol consumption. They also did better on cognitive tests and answered problems 11% faster. (1)
Mediterranean Diet Can be helpful. Recent advances in the fields of nutrition, cognitive function, and dementia have expanded our understanding of the critical nutrients involved in brain health. For many years, the ‘Mediterranean-style diet’ has been popular as a means of maintaining a healthy heart and body. It is well established that the study, published in the journal Alzheimer’s and Dementia, reveals that following a Mediterranean diet may minimize the risk of cognitive impairment and delay cognitive decline at the population level.
MIND (Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay) was established by researchers at Rush University in Chicago to help in the prevention of dementia and the slowing of age-related cognitive decline. It’s a combination of the two diets that have been shown to significantly lower the risk of heart and circulatory disease:
- Mediterranean diet (based on whole grains, fish, pulses, fruits, and vegetables).
- The DASH diet is intended to help people manage their blood pressure, which is a risk factor for heart and circulation disorders, as well as dementia. It is comparable to the Mediterranean diet but has a higher focus on salt reduction.
2. Exercise is Essential
As it has always been told, among many other benefits of exercising, it has also been proven that regular exercise might have a positive effect on our brain. Apart from improving blood flow to the brain, exercise — particularly running — can benefit brain health by promoting the production of a protein called brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), which supports the development of the neurons, the brain cells that transmit and receive messages. Additionally, BDNF increases the connections between neurons and protects them from environmental and other stresses.
Indeed, a 2009 study found that those who exercised regularly had a much lower risk of cognitive decline and dementia than those who followed a sedentary lifestyle. Aerobic exercises had been proven very beneficial, according to 2019 research, may help halt the hippocampus’s shrinkage, the area of the brain that governs memory. One research even revealed that exercise boosted the size of the hippocampus (the brain area damaged by Alzheimer’s disease) by 2%; that’s the equivalent of “reversing” age-related volume loss by one to two years.
National guidelines propose that older people engage in between 2 and 5 hours of physical activity each week. It is suggested to check with your doctor before beginning a new workout plan if you have a major health issue. Additionally, if you haven’t exercised in a while, begin slowly, perhaps with 15 minutes each day. Begin with simple workouts and work your way up. Ascend to:
- 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity per week, such as brisk walking,
- 75 minutes of vigorous activity per week, such as running.
Try not to spend too much time sitting or lying down during the day. Make activity a priority every day.
3. Cut Smoking and Alcohol Usage
Smoking. The World Health Organization’s guidelines are straightforward and conclusive: don’t smoke tobacco. Smoking increases your chance of developing Alzheimer’s disease, according to scientific evidence. This is especially true for persons over the age of 65 the risk of dementia also increases. Cigarette smoking has a negative impact on blood circulation throughout your body, including the blood vessels in your brain. In comparison to continuing to smoke, tobacco cessation has been related in research to decreased sadness, anxiety, and stress, as well as an increase in positive mood and quality of life.
If you smoke but are having difficulty quitting, speak with your doctor about smoking cessation programs or refer to our evidence-based solutions to quit smoking.
Alcohol Intake. Recent worldwide research discovered that alcohol use problems are a significant risk of dementia development. When it comes to alcohol, an occasional glass of wine or beer is unlikely to cause any harm. Indeed, according to the findings, modest to moderate alcohol use may actually reduce your risk of dementia. However, the WHO cautions against hazardous, excessive alcohol usage (More than 4 drinks per day or 14 per week for men. Over 3 drinks per day or 7 per week for women). Excessive alcohol use has been linked to the beginning of dementia, according to a study.
According to the current Dietary Guidelines for Americans, moderate drinking is defined as one drink per day for women and two drinks per day for men.
4. Supplement When Relevant
Numerous research has been conducted to determine whether dietary sources of vitamins or vitamin supplements are more beneficial, although the majority of studies favor natural foods over supplements. The newest study, published in August in JAMA, demonstrated that older persons who took nutritional supplements like omega-3 fatty acids (found in fatty fish and walnuts) and lutein and zeaxanthin (found in leafy greens) had the same cognitive deterioration as those who took placebo tablets over five years.
Another research studied AMD patients using a specific supplementation level with EPA being 350mg – which is considered insignificant for neural effect. Adults are advised to consume at least 500 mg of DHA and EPA per day, while children should consume between 150 and 250 mg per day.
Vitamin E is an antioxidant that guards against cell damage. A daily intake of vitamin E may reduce the pace of deterioration in individuals with dementia. It has also been studied that age-related memory decline may be mitigated by increasing your B12 intake through supplementation. Sometimes, however, it may not be possible for people to get the full range of foods. In such cases, if you decide to take a supplement for brain health, it is essential to consult with a doctor or nutritionist who is knowledgeable about supplements and to know whether supplements should be taken to cut the risk of dementia.
5. Be More Social
Although the research is less conclusive in this area, social isolation is a significant predictor of sadness and anxiety in older people. Additionally, the WHO asserted that social withdrawal and loneliness may accelerate the progression toward cognitive deterioration. Creating and/or sustaining a social support network can assist in improving your mood, which can subsequently result in greater self-care and general health. Increased social interaction after the age of 60 is connected with a much decreased chance of acquiring dementia later in life, the researchers discovered.
According to the data, someone who saw friends practically daily at the age of 60 had a 13% lower risk of developing dementia than someone who only visited one or two friends every few months – Social interaction can help dementia patients. 1 hour of social activities each week can reduce agitation and enhance dementia sufferers’ quality of life. Keep your mind engaged to reduce your risk of dementia.
How To Cope-Up with Dementia
When a parent, partner, or another loved one is diagnosed with dementia, you want to do all possible to assist them, including improving their memory, cognitive abilities, mood, and conduct. While the majority of forms of dementia are incurable, there are techniques to treat your symptoms.
1. Accepting Changes
Accepting changes in your abilities and learning new coping techniques can help you regain a feeling of balance and achievement while you live with the condition. Things you once did easily will become increasingly difficult, such as maintaining a schedule or managing money. What works well for one individual might not work for another. And what works one day may not work the next. Try out different coping tactics to find the ones that work best for you. The more adaptable you are, the more your techniques may be tailored to each scenario.
Recognize the stressors in your life. What causes you anxiety, worry, or stress? Knowing what generates stress enables you to prepare ahead or make choices regarding the activities/tasks in which you participate. Creating your own coping mechanisms does not have to be difficult. By concentrating on these three processes, you may streamline the process.
- List it up. Make a list of activities that have grown more difficult. Concentrate on establishing coping mechanisms for your most difficult activities. For instance, if you frequently forget to take your pills but never forget to do the laundry, prioritize developing medication reminder tactics first.
- Prioritize. Consider whether the work at hand will assist you in achieving your objective. For instance, if paying your bills has become more difficult, can someone assist you in writing each check? If the answer is yes, consider enlisting assistance. You can continue to sign each check on your own.
- Strategize. For instance, if you’re having trouble making supper, consider streamlining the process by utilizing a slow cooker. You can prepare a whole dinner without spending a lot of time figuring out how to cook.
No drug is able to treat dementia. However, some may temporarily alleviate some symptoms. Additionally, doctors may prescribe additional medications to manage symptoms associated with dementia, such as sadness, difficulty sleeping, or agitation. The following medications are used to alleviate dementia symptoms temporarily.
- Cholinesterase inhibitors. These drugs — donepezil (Aricept), rivastigmine (Exelon), and galantamine (Razadyne) — are proven in research to act by increasing the concentration of a chemical messenger important in memory and judgment. These drugs are commonly used for Alzheimer’s disease, but they can also be used to treat vascular dementia, Parkinson’s disease dementia, and Lewy body dementia. Learn More about the types in our article here. Nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea are possible side effects. Additionally, a decreased heart rate, fainting, and sleep difficulties are possible adverse effects.
- Memantine. Memantine (Namenda) acts by inhibiting glutamate activity, another chemical messenger important in cognitive tasks such as learning and memory. Memantine is occasionally administered in combination with a cholinesterase inhibitor. Dizziness is a typical adverse effect of memantine.
- It is possible that your doctor will give drugs to address additional symptoms or illnesses such as depression, sleep disorders, hallucinations, parkinsonism, or agitation along with the depression medication.
These drugs are provided for those who are experiencing mild to moderate symptoms. According to studies, between 40% and 70% of patients who take the medications benefit from them, with symptoms improving momentarily for six to twelve months.
Numerous dementia symptoms and behavioral difficulties may be treated initially without the use of drugs. These strategies may assist boost your loved one’s memory and cognitive abilities – or at the very least provide them with joy and a way to brighten their day.
- Reminiscence Therapy. This might involve discussing your loved one’s hometown, school days, job life, or preferred pastimes. It can be done individually or in groups as part of a structured therapeutic program. The facilitator may utilize music from your loved one’s history, as well as materials such as pictures or prized mementos, to aid in the process. Through reminiscence therapy, individuals with dementia can cultivate more pleasant sentiments while lowering tension and agitation.
- Cognitive Stimulation Therapy. Cognitive stimulation treatment (not to be confused with cognitive behavioral therapy) is a group activity and exercise program aiming at improving memory, problem-solving abilities, and language ability in people with mild to moderate dementia. It is now the only psychosocial dementia treatment specifically approved by NICE for mild or moderate dementia. Group CST therapy consists of 7 or more focused sessions held twice a week. The group engages in cognitively stimulating activities during sessions, such as discussing current events, singing, playing word games, or cooking from a recipe.
- Behavioral Therapy. Behavioral therapy aims to identify the underlying reason for the behavior and then suggests alternate techniques for resolving the issue. Although behavioral therapy does not cure the numerous behavioral disorders linked with dementia (depression, anger, or delusory thinking), it is an effective strategy for mitigating their effects. According to a new study, behavioral treatment may be more helpful than routinely prescribed antipsychotic medicines in treating Alzheimer’s disease symptoms.
Although behavioral therapy is administered under the supervision of a healthcare professional, it is frequently provided by a trained friend or relative, who is typically the primary family caregiver.
4. Lifestyle Modifications
Even if a person has dementia, their everyday behaviors might have an effect on their mood. The same things that are beneficial to their heart and the rest of their body will also benefit their mind — and mood.
- Modifying the Environment. Eliminating clutter and noise can help someone with dementia focus and operate more effectively according to research. Physical design aspects such as meandering corridors, electronically controlled exits, and protected outdoor courtyards are all possible adaptations, as are changes to other environmental components such as bright light exposure, ambient noise, music, and color.
- Staying Active. Exercise has been shown to minimize the progression of dementia symptoms such as cognitive difficulties and to alleviate worry or despair. Exercise has a number of significant advantages for persons with dementia, including better strength, balance, and cardiovascular health. Exercise may also aid in the treatment of symptoms such as restlessness. Exercise also appears to protect the brain from dementia, particularly when accompanied by a balanced diet and therapy for cardiovascular disease risk factors.
- Simplify Small Tasks. Divide activities into manageable segments and keep your emphasis on accomplishment, not failure. Structure and regularity can aid in the reduction of confusion in dementia patients.
- Stay Organized. Keep a calendar and other visible reminders throughout their house to assist you in remembering impending activities and plans.
- Get Good Sleep. Many persons with dementia have worsening symptoms later in the day. The sleep foundation recommends sleeping and waking up at the same time each day might assist in regulating the circadian cycle. Napping should be avoided whenever possible, as it reinforces dysfunctional sleep-wake patterns and makes it more difficult to fall and stay asleep at night. The use of sedatives for sleeping isn’t also recommended.
5. Learn New Things
Brains, like bodies, are designed to be active. A human study, named ACTIVE, randomly assigned individuals to three types of cognitive training (memory, speed, and reasoning). Ten years later, at roughly 82 years old, those who had trained had preserved their gains. They outperformed controls in everyday tasks, including preserving independence and driving, and in cognitive skills. Those who received processing speed training had a 29% lower risk of dementia. Crossword puzzles and sudoku are often suggested as brain exercises. The Alzheimer’s Association gives some guidelines for brain health. Additionally, your health care professional may be able to recommend some.
6. Keep Your Strengths Intact
All of these sources — family, friends, prayer, inner strength, and pets — may help you get through difficult times, even when you confront everyday problems or disappointments. The researchers discovered that one-on-one engagement reduced the agitation and even pain levels of dementia patients and help in treatment.