The Time Is NOW: What you can do to prevent dementia

The Time Is Now What you can do to prevent dementiaMoms are busy.  I think we can all agree on that.  Moms are taking care of their children, helping run the household, rocking their job, and often helping their extended family – brothers and sisters, and aging parents. We also hear over and over again about how moms need to take care of themselves. The future feels far off, but moms think about and plan for the future.  We plan for college funds and retirements.  But we also need to plan for health because….

The time to take care of our health and prevent diseases, like Alzheimer’s is NOW.  What, you’re too young for dementia?  Most likely, yes, you are too young to have dementia right now (no, mommy brain doesn’t count).  But what you do now can affect your chances of getting dementia when you are older.  

So, if you’re a mom who likes to plan ahead…this post is for you…

Science is important.  Science and research is helping us understand the brain, and the causes of dementia.  And when we understand what contributes to dementia, we can work to prevent it.

The latest research is on PREVENTING dementia in the first place.  Reducing your risk.

When is the best time to start preventing dementia?  NOW

Middle-age (long before many people even think about aging and dementia) is the best time to start making changes to their lifestyle to prevent dementia.  Control your risk factors, and improve your chances to avoid dementia.  Research indicates controlling risk factors can potentially prevent 30% of dementia!

Risk Factors you can’t control:

  • Age – The older you get, the higher your risk.  BUT, getting older is inevitable.  
  • Genetics – Scientists have discovered two genes that can impact on your likelihood of developing Alzheimer’s. The APOE4 gene variant can increase your risk, while having the APOE2 gene variant (rare) can decrease your risk.  But, neither variant will guarantee you will or won’t develop Alzheimer’s.

The thought of Alzheimer’s might seem scary and make a person feel powerless, but there’s no reason to worry and live in fear of developing Alzheimer’s. There are some things in your control and actions that you can do NOW to lower your risk.

Risk factors you CAN control:

  • Hypertension (aka High Blood Pressure) at midlife (that’s right, – NOW—, ages 35-64, is the time to reduce your risk)
  • Diabetes – If you have diabetes, carefully manage it to reduce your risk.
  • High cholesterol
  • Midlife Obesity (There’s that “midlife” again, ages 35-64)
  • Sedentary lifestyle
  • Smoking (as if you didn’t have enough reasons not to smoke)
  • Brain injuries (Including concussions.  Even repeated hitting of your head, like from soccer and football)
  • Low education / leaving school early (You can counter-act this with life-long learning: visit museums, learn another language, read books, do challenging puzzles)
  • Excessive drinking
  • Untreated Depression (This is a KEY RISK FACTOR, according to the research)

Some of these risk factors are easier to manage than others, and some are just unavoidable.  But knowledge is power. Focus on what you CAN change, and let the rest go.  NONE of these factors will definitely cause or prevent any form of dementia.  All they do is increase or decrease your risk.

Dementia statistics can be scary, but by being aware allows you to make informed choices surrounding the risk factors we can control. 

What else can you do to lower your risk?

  • Diet – In general, what’s good for your heart is good for your brain.  For example, the Mediterranean diet, or the DASH diet are showing to be beneficial. Consult your doctor before starting any new diets.
  • Keeping active, socially and physicallycan make a big difference to lower your risk.
  • Educate yourself – Life long learning helps build up a “cognitive reserve”, like a safety cushion.  
    • Take a class WITH your children.  Consider what are your children interested in and take a class in it together.
    • Skip those “brain training” apps. They don’t make a significant difference in day-to-day life function.  If there’s a specific area that you want to improve, create a specific plan with an expert.
    • Take advantage of the universities and tech schools nearby!  Take classes at a tech school or University to advance your career.  Learn a language, gardening, photography, architectural history, poetry, anything that you are interested in.
    • Speaking of life-long learning, The University of Tasmania Wicking Dementia Research and Education Centre offers a FREE Online course about understanding dementia this summer, and preventing dementia next summer.  If you have loved ones with dementia, considering taking advantage of these courses to learn the latest in research and what you can do to understand and help people with dementia.  

Learn more with this TED

 

:: Disclaimer :: Please seek the counsel of your primary care physician if you have any questions related to dementia and/or what you can do to prevent it. 

 

 

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