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July 24, 2017

9 life-mods to help ward off dementia

More than 50 million people worldwide are suffering from dementia and that number is expected to triple in the next 30 years. Because of these staggering statistics, medical researchers are beginning to more actively explore the ways in which people can minimize their risk of developing dementia later in life.

Dementia not only affects the people who are suffering from the disease, making them dependent and despondent, it also severely affects their loved ones around them who often times become depressed or anxious as a result of watching the mental deterioration of the person they care for.

While there is no way to guarantee the prevention of the disease, the findings in a new published report show that dementia, “is not an inevitable consequence of aging.”

The study, which combines the work of 24 international experts, goes on to say that there are a number of behavior modifications that you can make in your day-to-day life to significantly decrease your chances of becoming part of that statistic.

"Although dementia is diagnosed in later life, the brain changes usually begin to develop years before," said lead author Prof Gill Livingston, from University College London. "Acting now will vastly improve life for people with dementia and their families and, in doing so, will transform the future of society."

Below are the nine key risk factors that have been identified by the group, currently being presented at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference in London.

9 FACTORS THAT CONTRIBUTE TO RISK OF DEMENTIA

Mid-life hearing loss – responsible for 9 percent of the risk

Hearing loss without the use of a hearing aid device is believed to put a tremendous amount of extra stress on the brain. The researchers in the study say, “This can deny people a cognitively rich environment and lead to social isolation and depression, which are also among other potentially modifiable risk factors for dementia.”

Failing to complete secondary education – 8 percent 

This refers to the completion of education through age 15. The authors also encourage lifelong learning to increase cognitive function and create “brain reserves” to be used later in life.


Smoking - 5 percent

Another key piece of information to come out of this study, “What is good for the heart is good for the brain.” Quitting smoking can greatly reduce your risk of many diseases including cardiovascular disease, cancer and, now, dementia. If you or a loved one are trying to quit, visit this page on the CDC web site.

Failing to seek early treatment for depression – 4 percent

Depression can lead to a number of physical symptoms, so if you feel that you are depressed, do not be afraid to seek medical attention to get the help you need.

Physical inactivity – 3 percent

Being physically inactive leads to all kinds of other problems. From the obvious of weight gain and muscle deterioration, a sedentary lifestyle will also negatively affect your mood, making you anti-social and more prone to other negative behaviors.

Social isolation – 2 percent

Being alone all the time can be very mentally un-stimulating. Surround yourself with people who challenge you, make you laugh and enjoy life more. It’s OK to be alone sometimes, just make sure you keep a healthy balance.


High blood pressure – 2 percent

High blood pressure is not healthy for a number of reasons. Losing weight can be a simple way to lower blood pressure without medication but if you are genetically predisposed to the condition, be sure to talk to your doctor about your options and the best way to get your blood pressure in a healthy range.

Obesity – 1 percent

Carrying around extra weight puts a significant amount of stress on your body, and according to this study, your mind too. Decrease your risk for all kinds of diseases, including dementia, by getting to a healthy weight. Talk to your doctor about a weight management plan to get your weight under control once and for all. There are many options you may not even know about.

Type 2 diabetes – 1 percent

Type 2 diabetes often goes hand in hand with obesity because the body loses the ability to regulate insulin levels on it’s own. Talk to your doctor about the best ways to prevent the onset or manage the symptoms of Type 2 diabetes to reduce your risk for developing many diseases, including dementia, later in life.

These nine factors – which are described as potentially modifiable – add up to 35 percent of the risk. The other 65 percent is thought to be potentially non-modifiable and include genetic predispositions that cannot be changed.

As with anything, there are no guarantees in life, but knowing that you are making positive changes to reduce your risk factors and living the healthiest life possible should make you feel much more at peace and secure in your choices. Medical advances are taking us to new heights in terms of treatment and management of diseases but we must all take the time to consider the part we play in our own health.

This week, examine what you believe to be the greatest risk factors for your overall wellness. What part do you play in keeping yourself well? How much better would you feel knowing that you have done all that you can do to ensure your best life possible? Don’t neglect yourself; you have nothing if not your health.

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I hope you find this information as helpful as I have. Please feel free to share your stories here. I will continue to keep you posted on my health journey. Follow me for updates @christiemandia.