It seems like everywhere I go, I run into someone who has been personally affected by dementia or knows at least one person with the disease. It makes me wonder if a lot of us, should we live that long, are destined to lose our memories.
It’s a scary thought and something I’ve been thinking a lot about lately mainly because I’ve been personally affected too. My grandmother died from Alzheimer’s Disease (a common cause of dementia) at the age of 94. Watching her lose her mind and herself was heartbreaking. No one is more affected by watching the gradual decline of their loved one than his or her family. I wondered if there was something my grandmother could have done in her earlier years to prevent the cause of her demise. Now that she is gone, I can only speculate based on snippets of her life.
Thankfully, research in this area has been robust. Annually, millions of dollars are poured into research. Although no cure has been found to date, I’m hopeful that one day, a cure will be discovered. In the meantime, there are preventative measures we can take, albeit some more difficult to change than others.
The impossible or difficult to change risk factors include:
- Age – The older you are the more likely you are to develop dementia
- Genes – genes alone don’t cause dementia. Usually it’s a combination of genes and environmental factors such as smoking or lack of regular exercise.
- Lower levels of education
Research suggests other factors play a role such as hearing loss, untreated depression, loneliness and sedentary lifestyle. The good news is the risk for dementia could decrease by up to 30% by modifying these factors.
Additionally, leading a healthy lifestyle such as exercising regularly and eating a well-balanced diet could decrease the risk. It’s also important to maintain a healthy weight, keep alcohol consumption to a minimum and stop smoking. Also, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and type two diabetes increases one’s risk.
There is only so much control we have over our health. One day, we will all die of something be it from disease, dementia or natural causes. But if there’s a risk factor worth preventing, we owe it to ourselves to take charge.