If you’ve ever watched a loved one suffer from dementia, you know how difficult and stressful it can be. Dementia is a general term for loss of memory, language, problem-solving, and other thinking abilities that are severe enough to interfere with daily life. Alzheimer’s is the most common cause of dementia.
According to the Alzheimer’s Association, Alzheimer’s disease accounts for 60-80% of cases. Vascular dementia, which occurs because of microscopic bleeding and blood vessel blockage in the brain, is the second most common cause of dementia. Those who experience the brain changes of multiple types of dementia simultaneously have mixed dementia. There are many other conditions that can cause symptoms of dementia, including some that are reversible, such as thyroid problems and vitamin deficiencies.
Dementia risk and prevention
Some risk factors for dementia, such as age and genetics, cannot be changed. But researchers continue to explore the impact of other risk factors on brain health and prevention of dementia that may decrease the risk of cognitive decline and dementia. Research reported at the 2019 Alzheimer’s Association International Conference suggests that adopting multiple healthy lifestyle choices, including:
- ★ A healthy diet
- ★ Not smoking
- ★ Regular exercise
- ★ Cognitive stimulation
Current evidence suggests that heart-healthy eating may also help protect the brain. Heart-healthy eating includes limiting the intake of sugar and saturated fats and making sure to eat plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. No one diet is best. Two diets that have been studied and may be beneficial to lowering the risk of Alzheimer’s are the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet and the Mediterranean diet.
- ★ The DASH diet emphasizes vegetables, fruits, fat-free or low-fat dairy products, whole grains, fish, poultry, beans, seeds, nuts and vegetable oils. The DASH diet limits sodium, sweets, sugary beverages and red meats.
- ★ A Mediterranean diet includes relatively little red meat. It emphasizes whole grains, fruits and vegetables, fish and shellfish, and healthy fats like nuts and olive oil.
Social connections and intellectual activity
A number of studies indicate that maintaining strong social connections and keeping mentally active as we age might lower the risk of cognitive decline and Alzheimer’s. Experts are not certain about the reason for this association. It may be due to direct mechanisms through which social and mental stimulation strengthen connections between nerve cells in the brain.
There appears to be a strong link between the future risk of cognitive decline and serious head trauma, especially when the injury involves loss of consciousness. You can help reduce your risk of Alzheimer’s and protect your head by:
- ★ Wearing a seat belt
- ★ Using a helmet when participating in sports.
- ★ “Fall-proofing” your home by minimizing clutter, loose rugs and poor lighting.
Patient-centered care is a great model to involve your loved one in their own care as much as possible. Maple Manor Christian Home is a skilled nursing facility, certified by the Indiana State Department of Health. Our mission is to provide outstanding care for all of our residents by being compassionate, affectionate, respectful, and enthusiastic. We welcome family and friends and encourage them to visit frequently. Call us at (812) 246-4866 with any questions and to schedule a tour.