Lowering the risk for Alzheimer’s, and dementia

People have the fear that one day they will develop a dementia like Alzheimer’s disease


One of the issues that comes up frequently is the fear people have that one day they will develop a dementia like Alzheimer’s disease.

There may be dementia in their family tree and they may be noticing some forgetfulness in their stressful lives.

What can you do?

There is good news to bring some hope to people on this front.

First, although the number of dementia cases is going up — because of the bubble of people in the baby-boom generation reaching the age — where dementia is most often diagnosed — the percentages of people developing dementia is going down.

Secondly, there have been exciting developments in the past two years revealing information on ways dementia can be treated and maybe one day, cured.

And, finally, there have been some great findings in dementia research about ways to slow down, prevent or delay onset of symptoms.

There are generally six ways medicine has advised we can reduce our risk for dementia known as the six pillars of brain health.

They are:

1. Regular exercise: The Mayo Clinic announced last week regular exercise of any intensity from mid-life on can profoundly assist in prevention of dementia.

2. Healthy diet: Brain-healthy foods such as the Mediterranean Diet that are rich with fish, nuts, whole grains, olive oil and abundant fresh produce.

3. Mental stimulation: Crossword puzzles, reading and games of strategy are helpful, whereas television, passive activities are detrimental in high doses.

4. Quality sleep: At least seven or more hours of restful, uninterrupted sleep is recommended.

Poor quality or not enough sleep is generally bad for vascular (and therefore brain health).

5. Stress management: Given we cannot avoid stress in our lives, we can learn ways to cope and can develop an attitude about stressful situations that improves our brain-health prognosis.

Yoga, meditation and exercise are clearly among the top methods.

6. An active social life: Having a rich circle of friends and several very close friends has been found to improve brain health and prevent dementia.

Even a close relationship and the daily interaction with a loved pet has benefits for brain health.

The unwritten seventh pillar we talk about often in our column is to take steps to prevent brain injury.

Wear a helmet, use seatbelts, take every precaution you can and make sure you take steps to avoid repetitive small blows to the head, such as those caused by young people heading soccer balls.

If there is a theme in these six items, it may be you need to be proactive and involved in the health of your brain.

This strategy has obvious direct health benefits, but there are additional benefits that come from the attitude that one is doing everything one can to preserve their mental and cognitive health.

Thank you for asking about this issue and, if you have a question or comment, feel free to pass it along to Kamloops@cmha.bc.ca and follow us on Twitter @CMHAKamloops.