Everyone, whether they are currently caring for someone with dementia or concerned that they are at risk of developing it themselves, is seeking a magic bullet to stop it in its tracks.
The unfortunate reality is that there is currently no cure and little in the way of treatment. In addition, little is known to prevent dementia.
But, the good news is that there is a great deal of research hoping to provide viable treatment, a cure, and even prevention!
Is prevention in the cards for you now?
Let’s check out the latest news about dementia.
Lifestyle Factors Impacting Dementia
A new report presented recently at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference (AAIC) states that there are nine lifestyle factors that can impact our risk for developing dementia. These nine factors reportedly are responsible for 35% of dementias.
This report, published in The Lancet, was a meta-analysis review of literature in the field of dementia.
The nine factors are:
- Failure to complete secondary education in early life
- Hearing loss in midlife – doubled the risk of developing dementia 9 to 17 years later
- Physical inactivity
- Social isolation
- Diabetes in later life
The researchers want us all to know — “our results show it is never too early or never too late to make lifestyle changes that will make a difference.”
How can family caregivers act to lessen the risks of these factors, not just for themselves, but also their senior loved ones?
Actions on Dementia Risk Factors
Experts encourage us to do something to lower our risks. We can all take action to improve some of these factors to become healthier and try to prevent the development of cognitive impairment.
- Get treatment for hypertension. Get your blood pressure checked to determine your numbers then do everything in your treatment plan such as medications, monitoring, dietary changes, and exercise to lower your blood pressure to the normal range.
- Participate in regular physical activity! Get moving, find an activity you enjoy, find a buddy to do it with you, and stay active every day.
- Evaluate and treat hearing loss as soon as possible. Find a hearing aid that works for you and wear it. This will help you and your senior loved one stay socially engaged. Many with hearing loss isolate themselves leading to cognitive loss.
- Engage with others! Continue to participate with others either in person or via technology. Socialization is essential for cognitive health. Join a group, attend community events, talk with someone on the phone or via technology, attend faith services, get a pet (real or virtual), dine with others, and find ways to interact with multi-generations. There may be obstacles that need to be overcome to achieve these goals such as transportation, incontinence, technology, accessibility, or hearing, but once identified can be surmounted.
- Stop smoking! There are many forms of smoking cessation aids to reduce the struggle, such as medications, apps, and support.
- Recognize and treat depression. Don’t be afraid to admit you have a problem because that will become an obstacle to treatment. Family caregivers are at increased risk for depression, so don’t ignore the symptoms.
- Manage your blood sugar. Often going hand in hand with obesity, diabetes is a disease that continues to increase. Many people don’t know that they have abnormal blood sugar yet the damage is occurring. Elevated blood sugar, especially for long periods of time, impacts heart and brain health. Learn your numbers and begin a treatment plan to control those numbers.
- Manage your weight. If you or your senior loved one are overweight or obese, work on a healthy eating plan that will facilitate your weight management. If you need help, seek out a Registered Dietitian, who is the nutrition expert and can help you find ways to achieve your health goals.
Experts also believe that managing stress, eating a heart healthy diet and learning new things will also help lower your risk of developing dementia as you age.
Dementia affects millions in the US and around the globe. Preventing dementia is our common goal so family caregivers can continue to be supportive caregivers.
Here are some additional articles that can help caregivers learn more about the disease.