Prevention of dementia
Alzheimer’s and dementia are becoming more prevalent in today’s society. As the baby boomer’s generation ages, the fastest growing age group in the nation is the over 85 age group. As our nation ages, dementia becomes more of a concern.
Dementia is the loss of memory, reason, judgment, and language. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia today. While some loss of memory is normal as you age, drastic loss of memory or problem solving skills are not normal and may be attributed to dementia or Alzheimer’s. While these diseases are not fully understood, we do know some things about them. The human brain is made up of cells called neurons and support cells called glial cells. There are over 100 Billion neurons in the human brain, and they are connected by over 100 Trillion synapses. Under normal conditions, neurons in the brain can live up to and even over 100 years. In an aging brain neurons can shrink and damage from free radicals increase. In an aging brain, tangles and plaques can also occur, and are thought to be related to dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Plaques and Tangles can occur under normal circumstances, but occur more often with Alzheimer’s and Dementia. Plaques are remnants of cells that can stick to the neurons and make the less effective. Tangles are tiny tubes and filaments that tangle within neurons make it more difficult for them to send electrical impulses.
There are many different things that could help to delay the onset or prevent dementia. Studies have shown that physical exercise is beneficial for many different problems such as diabetes and coronary artery disease, but it has also been shown that physical activity can help prevent the symptoms of dementia. It is believed that the increase in blood flow may help prevent dementia. Social interaction and having an active mind have also been shown to prevent dementia. Mind engagement may have several different effects, but one theory is that it allows the mind to be flexible and help to adjust to the plaques and tangles that occur with age.
Engaging your mind more often can seem like a daunting task, but there are many things that you can do to improve your mind. Reading more often is something that could greatly help. This can be done as easily as getting a newspaper subscription and reading your news instead of watching it on TV. It is also important to get together with people in social situations by taking a class at the local community college or gym. Staying up to date on current events is also a great way to maintain an interest and engagement in the world. Taking the following steps can decrease your risk:
- lowering cholesterol and homocysteine levels
- lowering high blood pressure levels
- controlling inflammation
- exercising regularly
- non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
Engaging in intellectually stimulating activities, such as social interaction, playing a musical instrument, chess or crossword puzzles may significantly hinder cognitive decline and lower risk for developing dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. While researchers aren’t sure what causes people with cognitive decline to later develop dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, steps can be taken to maintain brain health and allow older Americans to maintain their independence and enjoy the golden years of their life.
Dementia is a problem that is facing an ever-increasing number of people. There are many people affected by this disease, and the numbers are increasing. Research in this area is ongoing, and hopefully the future will see a cure, but until then there are efforts that you can make to protect yourself.
- Prevention of dementia (Wikipedia)
- Can Alzheimer’s Disease be prevented? The National Institute on Aging, Department of Health and Human Services, June 2006.
- Multi-Infarct Dementia Fact Sheet. Alzheimer’s Disease Education & Referral Center, The National Institute on Aging, July 2003.
- Alzheimer’s Disease Unraveling The Mystery The National Institute on Aging, Department of Health and Human Services, December 2003