Is Dementia Inevitable?

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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:

  • AgeThe 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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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32 thoughts on “Is Dementia Inevitable?

  1. thoughtsnlifeblog says:

    Umm. … its a hard one, because active people get it too.

    I dont think genes can be blamed for everything.

    I do think we to keep active physically and mentally.. it helps alround.

    As for loneliness i have seen the opposite.

    It is a terrible illness.
    But there are people in tgeir 100s sharper than a young one.

    So i wonder if depression is the common tread.

    Hard one

    • Frieda P. Fontaine says:

      I agree! There are many factors at play that defy what we know. I believe isolation and depression can play a role. But then so can other factors. I hope to see more light shed on this devastating disease. Perhaps in the next 10-20 years we will see a cure.

  2. davidyochim says:

    I love this article, and yes, this is an issue which has impacted my life directly from my maternal and paternal sides with my grand mothers. There is so much unknown about Alheimers and dementia, and also a great deal that has been learned in the last several years. As with Autism, it could probably be said there are many forms on the spectrum as we can see people of a wide array of ages and back grounds become afflicted. My wife had a client who had early onset Alzheiers at a young age of late 30’s or early 40’s.

    Being as Alzheimers is now often being referred to as Type 3 Diabetes, it seems the researchers must be finding a nutritional link to it. I know from all of my research and studies as a nutritional consultant that many folks are lacking in getting enough proper nutrients even if they appear to eat fairly well otherwise. For example, maybe they might eat good vegetables and fruits, and protein sources, yet still do not get all their essential amino acids to build the proteins their bodies need for healthy living.

    I believe nutrition plays at least a large issue in this affliction, and make it a point to eat as healthy as I can. Yet I recognize this is no guarantee. I pray a definitive answer or cure is found one day. My only worry is that if it is found to be a nutritional issue, that many will do as they do with other ailments such as Type 2 diabetes where they are more into eatin what taste good today over eating what is going to help them tomorrow. Diabetes is common in my family too.

    • Frieda P. Fontaine says:

      I agree. Nutrition is integral. The question remains as to how large a role it plays. The same could be said for all diseases. There’s a lot that remains to be understood.

      I’d love to see more research devoted to nutrition and disease. I’ve read a lot of research in nutrition and it’s affects on disease that haven’t proven much. It just means we need more trials and probably a lot more funding.

  3. Brenda Sue says:

    I work with these people a lot. Personally, I believe there’s a combination of factors at play here including genetics and sometimes poor health habits and environmental elements. There is no one size fits all but I truly believe that good health habits tend to ward off a lot of this. Avoiding environmental toxins and lowering stress and controlling blood pressure to help prevent strokes is also key. It’s such a sad thing to behold.

  4. Brenda Sue says:

    I work with a lot of dementia patients. I believe that there are many factors involved here from genetics to environmental toxicity. There is also research that suggests that the overuse of alprazolam, (Xanax) is causing an epidemic of dementia. This is the legally prescribed Xanax that is so often prescribed for anxiety in the elderly. Poor life choices and malnutrition undoubtedly play a role. This is a puzzle that has many pieces and I believe that going above and beyond in all areas of health maintenance can prevent a lot of this. Strangely enough, I have also noticed that when people quit eating eggs (acetylcholine), Alzheimer’s rose. Alzheimer’s is a low acetylcholine state in the brain. There had also been links to statin drugs. I see all of this in my area of employment.

    • Frieda P. Fontaine says:

      Very interesting. I didn’t know that about eggs. I guess I need to keep eating them, but that’s not hard since I love eggs at all hours of the day. Poor life style choices are responsible for so much as is prescription drugs. I think if people took the time to research natural therapies, they’d find that some are just as effective as prescription drugs. Unfortunatley, physicians are paid to dish out drugs. Until that changes, natural therapies will always take a back seat.

  5. Winnie says:

    I can relate since my mom has Alzheimer’s disease. I think hers is related to her diabetes and sedentary lifestyle. I’m hoping there will be a breakthrough soon.

  6. Stephen Ellis says:

    Dimentia is one of those medical problems that defies complete understanding. I’m not a physician, but it seems that the blood flow to the brain diminishes as you get older…and this may be a cause. We exercise our bodies to keep the blood flowing and our muscles intact; perhaps we should be doing the same for our brains. Things like crossword puzzles, sudoku, playing games like ‘bridge’, and creative writing seem to hep delay the onset of Alzheimers. I think perhaps more research should be done in the area of prevention rather than strictly viewing it after it has become a fact.

    • Frieda P. Fontaine says:

      I agree. We need to exercise our brains as much as we need to exercise our bodies. You make the point that blood flow to the brain decreases as we grow older. It makes me wonder if performing regular poses where you are turned upside down i.e. headstands, downward dog, or anything that would direct blood flow to the brain would help? We definitely need more research in this area.

  7. Stephen Ellis says:

    Dimentia is a scary subject. Both my parents suffered from it shortly before they died. I don’t have an answer for it, but I do have some suggestions that might help: We keep our bodies younger and healthier by exercising. Try it with your brain!

    Do crossword puzzles, play Sudoku, etc. Read a lot. Work your brain as if you were exercising your body. Read some puzzles and see if you can work them out. I don’t pretend to have the answer for dimentia, but I believe (and hope) that exercising your brain will have a similar effect to exercising your body.

    • Frieda P. Fontaine says:

      Great advice! I agree. Exercising the brain with puzzles, Sudoku and the like can help. Also, learning something new is great stimulation and creates new connections in the brain. However, physical exercise, if possible, should accompany brain exercise. Even taking a ten minute walk per day can make a difference. Our bodies were meant to move!

  8. Tony says:

    Really nice post. I have Alzheimer’s and dementia in my immediate family. Both my mother and her sister died from it. On my father’s side, his father suffered from it, but it was back in the ’40’s and they considered him senile. As a result, I have studied and written a lot about it because I am hoping to dodge that cognitive bullet. I corresponded with the doctor, whose name escapes me, who taught a course on the brain for The Great Courses. I asked specifically about crosswords, etc. He said he doubted that they were of any value. On the other hand, I have learned that physical exercise is superb for both body AND brain. Cardio work sends oxygen molecules to the brain and this helps to grow fresh brain cells. There is no guarantee against Alzheimer’s, but physical exercise definitely helps.

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