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February 6, 2017 | Family Medicine
Many people consider memory loss to be a natural sign of aging, but extreme memory loss or a reduction in the ability to think can signal a serious health condition, one that is diagnosed every four seconds. These conditions fall under the term “dementia,” a category of disease that refers to complications with memory and thinking.
One of the most common and well-known forms of dementia is Alzheimer’s disease, a progressive disease with no known cure that affects memory, behavior and other cognitive abilities. Genetic factors exist that can influence your risk of Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia, but there are also lifestyle factors that can increase your risk.
Diet and exercise are important in prevention of dementia and other diseases. Exercise helps improve blood flow throughout the body, including through the brain—and better blood flow in the brain increases oxygen levels, which can keep brain cells healthier. There’s also evidence that good heart health keeps the brain functioning at higher levels, and a heart-healthy diet can help prevent early onset of dementia.
Here are some tips to improve diet and exercise:
Keeping the brain active can help maintain its function. You can stimulate the brain with a variety of activities such as crossword puzzles, reading or learning a new language. Anything that keeps the brain functioning at a high level is good.
Maintaining strong social relationships is a known factor in preventing the type of cognitive decline that’s often found in Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, though doctors are still unsure about how this correlation works.
Stress and anxiety have been shown to increase the chances of developing Alzheimer’s disease. Eliminate unnecessary stressors in your life, and consider the parts of your life that cause you the most stress.
Making healthy lifestyle choices is important. If you are a smoker, work with your doctor, family and friends to help you quit (smokers have a much higher rate of dementia than non-smokers). Try to better your sleep habits and generally look for ways to increase happiness. These all have very real effects on your chances of developing dementia.
Because head trauma is associated with potential risks of dementia, keeping the head safe is important. Wear a seatbelt while riding in a car, and always take proper safety precautions when playing sports. If you’re older, at risk of falling or at risk of accidents in the home, take precautions there as well.
If you’re worried you or a loved one is beginning to show signs of dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, contact your doctor to find out what you can do to clarify your symptoms and slow the progression of these conditions.
“15 Resolutions to Reduce Your Dementia Risk in 2015.” Alzheimers.net. http://www.alzheimers.net/1-1-15-resolutions-reduce-dementia-2015/
“Prevention and Risk of Alzheimer’s and Dementia.” Alzheimer’s Association. http://www.alz.org/research/science/alzheimers_prevention_and_risk.asp
The Live Better Team
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This information is not intended to replace the advice of a medical professional. You should always consult your doctor before making decisions about your health.