Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia. About a third of people 85 and over show signs of the disease. The genes you receive from your parents play a role at this age, but so do diet, exercise, your social life, and other illnesses. Dementia is not a normal part of aging.
This could lead to a heart attack or stroke, making dementia more likely. Heart disease is usually caused by the buildup of plaque in the arteries around the heart.œur (atherosclerosis). This can slow blood flow to your brain and put you at risk for a stroke, making it harder to think well or remember things. And many of the things that cause heart disease — smoking, diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol — can also lead to dementia.
Doctors are not sure why people with diabetes have dementia more often. But they do know that people with diabetes are more likely to have damaged blood vessels. This can slow or block blood flow to the brain and damage areas of the brain, leading to what is called vascular dementia. Some people can slow brain decline if they control diabetes with medication, exercise, and a healthy diet.
High levels, especially in middle age, are linked to obesity, high blood pressure and diabetes. All of these increase your risk of dementia, but it’s not yet clear if cholesterol, by itself, makes the problem worse. Some research shows that high cholesterol in midlife could be a risk for Alzheimer’s disease later in life, but the exact link is unclear.
Even if you had no other health problems, high blood pressure makes you more susceptible to developing vascular dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. This is probably because high blood pressure damages the blood vessels in your brain. It can also lead to other conditions that cause dementia, such as stroke. Managing your blood pressure with diet and exercise — and medication, if needed — can slow or prevent this from happening.
If you have had this common disease in the past, you are more likely to have dementia. Scientists are not yet sure if this is a cause. It may just be an early symptom or a sign of other causes like Parkinson’s and Huntington’s disease. Talk to your doctor or a therapist if you feel depressed for more than 2 weeks, and immediately if you think you are hurting yourself. Therapy and medication can help treat depression.
A mild traumatic brain injury may not make you more likely to develop dementia later in life. But more serious or repeated blows or falls could double or quadruple your chances, even years after the first time. Go to the hospital if you hit your head and pass out or have blurred vision, or if you feel dizzy, confused, nauseous, or become oversensitive to light.
Having a lot of extra weight in middle age could put you at risk. It also increases your chances of getting heart disease and diabetes which are linked to dementia. You can check your BMI (body mass index) online to see if it is in the “obese” range. Your doctor can help you set a weight loss goal that’s right for you. A healthy diet and regular physical activity could help turn things around.
They appear to be more prominent in some types of dementia than in others. But dementia doesn’t always run in families. And, even risky genes don’t mean you’ll get it. If you’re considering genetic testing for Alzheimer’s disease, ask your doctor about the pros and cons, as well as genetic counseling. Doctors do not routinely recommend these tests.
The most common type blocks blood flow to areas of the brain. Subsequently, damaged blood vessels can make it difficult to think, speak, remember or pay attention (vascular dementia). Factors that make a stroke more likely, such as high blood pressure, heart disease, and smoking, also increase the risk of this type of dementia. Think “FAST” in case you suspect the symptoms of a stroke. FAST is the English acronym:
F : for face, if you think your face looks unusual;
A : for arm, which refers to the arm in French, if they are drooping or weak;
S : for speech, if you detect a language difficulty;
T ; for Time, then, it’s time to call 911.
Many people have a bad night’s sleep from time to time. But if it happens often – you wake up a lot or don’t sleep enough – you could be more susceptible to developing dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease. Establish and stick to a smart sleep routine: Avoid alcohol, caffeine and electronic devices in the evening and establish a soothing bedtime ritual with regular bedtimes.
It’s bad for your blood vessels, and it makes you more likely to have a stroke, which can cause vascular dementia. This could lead to thinking or memory problems. Talk to your doctor or a mental health professional if you smoke and want help to quit.
Lewy body dementia
In this and other forms of dementia, proteins called Lewy bodies build up and damage brain cells. Lewy body dementia can cause problems with memory and movement. A person with this condition may have dreams or see things that are not there (hallucinations). Although there is no cure, your doctor can help treat the symptoms.
What helps: diet
Talk about a win-win. The traditional Mediterranean-style diet that’s so good for your heartœur is also good for your brain. It contains whole grains, fruits, vegetables, fish, nuts, olive oil and other healthy fats like avocado (in moderation) and keeps red meat to a minimum.
What helps: exercise
People who are physically active are more likely to stay mentally awake and less likely to get Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia. If you already have the early stages of these conditions, being active can help you think more clearly and remember things. You don’t have to go to extremes. Get outside for a brisk walk, dance, garden, or something similar. Build them up to 30 minutes or more, most days of the week.
Dr. Isoux Jr. Jerome, Psy. D