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dementia

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Dementia Does Not Have to Happen

Specific steps can be taken to prevent dementia.

A Lancet Commission, after a careful review of epidemiological data, reported that 35% of all dementia is "potentially modifiable". The modifiable risk factors can be separated into early-, mid-, and late-life prevention as follows:

  • Early life: poor education (8%)
  • Mid-life: hearing loss (9%), hypertension (2%), obesity (1%)
  • Late-life: smoking (5%), depression (4%), physical inactivity (3%), social isolation (2%), and diabetes (1%)

This is really good news! 

PositiveTip: By choosing to follow a healthy lifestyle you will take important steps to reduce your risk of dementia.

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Hearing Loss First, then Dementia?

The worse the hearing loss, the greater the risk of developing dementia.

Researchers with the Baltimore Longitudinal Study of Aging have found a strong association between hearing loss and dementia. When compared to individuals with normal hearing, those with mild, moderate, or severe hearing loss had, respectively, a 2, 3, and 5 fold, increased risk of developing dementia over the 18 year study. This correlation held true even when age, diabetes, hypertension, and other confounders were ruled out.

PositiveTip: Have your hearing tested by an audiologist, and if needed, wear hearing aids to hear better and to protect your brain.

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MIND Diet May Delay Alzheimer's

MIND dietary pattern good for brain health!

Evidence suggests both the DASH Diet and a Mediterranean-type dietary pattern have significant brain benefits. A dietary pattern that combines the best of both of these may be even more protective. The MIND (Mediterranean-DASH Intervention of Neurodegenerative Delay) diet is associated with a slower rate of cognitive decline. This was equivalent to 7.5 years of younger age. The MIND diet emphasizes green leafy vegetables, berries and olive oil--each rich in antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds.

PositiveTip: Plant-based foods and limited intakes of animal products may significantly help delay dementia.

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Screening for Dementia

Earlier identification of cognitive impairment not associated with better outcomes.

Today there is great interest in screening tests to identify early cognitive impairment in older adults. But are there benefits of doing so to the patient or family? According to a review for the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force there is no empirical evidence to support the benefits of even the best screening tools. Perhaps awareness has some value, but unfortunately there are no effective interventions available yet.

PositiveTip: Remember, screening results do not always translate into meaningful treatment interventions. 

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Older Danes Seem to be Getting Sharper

Age-related cognitive decline in the very old has improved in Denmark.

Good news for those getting older! A Danish cohort study has found that men and women born in 1915 were mentally sharper in 2010 (age 94 and 95) compared to those born in 1905 and assessed in 1998 (age 92 and 93). The 1915 cohort also had significantly better activities of daily living scores than did the 1905 group. The authors did not postulate as to the reasons for these improvements.

PositiveTip: Making healthy choices today may support not only longer life, but a better quality of life as well.

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What is the Most Costly Health Condition?

Dementia beats heart disease and cancer in U.S. spending.

Dementia affects a growing number of aging adults in the United States. Researchers have recently calculated that the care for this large group cost from $41,000 to $56,000 per year per patient in 2010, making this the most costly health condition. The total expenditure for this type of care was $159-215 billion annually, with predictions that this could increase 80% by 2040.

PositiveTip: Growing evidence strongly suggests a healthy lifestyle lowers the risk of dementia later in life. 

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Fitness in Middle-age Reduces Risk of Dementia

People with the highest levels of fitness at 50 are less likely to develop dementia.

Researchers at the Cooper Institute report that individuals in the highest quintile of cardiorespiratory fitness at age 50 had a 36% lower risk of dementia after age 65 when compared to those in the lowest fitness group. This finding is based on an analysis of almost 20,000 individuals. While this study did not prove that fitness prevents dementia, it is certainly plausible, as fitness reduces other known risk factors such as diabetes and hypertension. 

PositiveTip: Keep up those fitness activities! It lowers known risk factors and may help prevent dementia, also.

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Caregivers Play Key Role in Senior's Driving

More than a third of those with diagnosed dementia continue to drive.

Austrian researchers have reported that the impressions of caregivers topped all other reasons to end the driving privileges of the elderly with dementia. More than 93% of those who stopped driving did so because caregivers thought the risks were unacceptable. They also found that more than 33% of patients with clinically diagnosed dementia continued to drive.

PositiveTip: The impressions of caregivers play a significant role in highway safety.

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Exercise Can Affect Thinking

Exercise helps memory and clarity of thinking.

It is not just formal exercise that reduces the risk of Alzheimer's disease. Researchers in Chicago have found that ordinary activities, such as housework, walking, and gardening, may reduce the risk of cognitive impairment. People in the bottom 10% of total physical activity were more than twice as likely to develop Alzheimer's when compared to the most active 10%. This study involved 716 people with an average age of 82.

PositiveTip: Keep moving every day to help prevent cognitive impairment.

Smoking Makes You Foolish

Most people know that it is foolish to smoke cigarettes. Smoking causes heart attacks, emphysema, and several kinds of cancer. Now it is known that smoking also makes you stupid.

Studies in the past have indicated that smoking increases the risk of Alzheimer’s dementia and dementia caused by small strokes. Now, a new study on the effects of smoking on mental decline has revealed the effects of smoking on the brain.

This study enrolled 5099 men and 2137 women who were employees of the British Civil Service in London, England. The average age at the beginning of the study was 56. The number of cigarettes smoked was recorded over the 10 years of the study.