Did you know that every 4 seconds there is a new case of dementia being reported worldwide?
Did you also know that there are at least 50 million people suffering from dementia with 60 % of these coming from low-income homes?
These facts should be scary enough to make you want to learn more about dementia and how to keep your brain dementia-free?
In this article, you will learn what dementia is, causes, signs and how to prevent as a senior.
What is brain dementia?
Dementia is one of the most non-diagnosed conditions, often because it is believed to be as a result of aging. While there may be some truth in the aging factor, it is not entirely so. Dementia is not an illness per se but a term that refers to a group of symptoms that include loss of memory, speech difficulty, impaired judgment and a person not being able to perform their daily tasks.
What causes brain dementia?
Dementia is caused by injury, damage or loss of nerve cells in the brain. Once the neurons (brain cells) have been damaged, they become unable to send messages to other cells thus becoming dysfunctional. Dementia affects different people differently depending on the part of the brain that is affected. This is why symptoms may vary from one person to another. Dementia is diagnosed by undergoing a series of assessment tests which includes memory tests, physical evaluation, and blood work as well as looking at the past history of a patient.
Dementia is a progressive condition and can take really long before one notices that they have it. Most people get treated for the symptoms without knowing that they actually have dementia. Others totally ignore the symptoms thinking they are as a result of aging.
What are the early signs of dementia?
The signs and symptoms of dementia may vary from one individual to another but will typically be:
- Loss of memory – can be mild to severe
- Speech difficulty – having difficulty finding words to use or repeating certain words and phrases.
- Struggling to complete day-to-day tasks
- Unable to comprehend what they see and hear
- Problem focusing – attention span is short and they are easily distracted
- Impaired judgment
What are the different types of dementia?
There are different types of dementia; some reversible and others non-reversible. The most common type is Alzheimer which contributes to over 60 % of dementia cases. Other common types include Lewy body dementia, vascular dementia, and frontotemporal dementia.
Brain dementia in seniors
The myth that dementia is a part of aging is not far from the truth since aging is indeed one of the risk factors of dementia. The older one gets, the more likely they are to develop dementia. Statistics show that the rate of dementia among seniors (aged 60 and above) is between 5-8 %. In the UK for instance, the prevalence of dementia among the seniors stands at 7.1 %. This figure rises even higher for those aged over 80 with 1 out of every 5 being diagnosed with dementia.
In the US, it is not a different case either. It is estimated that 5.7 million suffer from dementia with almost 70 % of these being Alzheimer cases. In Australia, 1 in almost every 10 people aged over 65 has dementia. In fact, dementia is the third leading cause of death among seniors in Australia.
From these figures, it is clear that dementia is prevalent among seniors. And what is even more shocking is that these figures are expected to rise higher in the coming decades. According to WHO, these numbers will rise to 82 million by 2030 and 152 million by 2050. Unless something happens in between, everyone is at high risk.
Ways to keep your brain dementia-free as a senior
Just because you are aging doesn’t mean that your brain should age too. Unlike other body organs, your brain regenerates faster and can stay sharp even in old age. Let’s look at the various ways that you can implement to keep your brain dementia-free as a senior.
There are countless ways to exercise your brain. You can engage in thinking games such as word puzzles, Chess, Scrabble, Sudoku, video games, computer games, and other board games. You can check out a list of free crossword puzzles at Dailycaring. Their games are large print so that you don’t strain your eyes. Research shows that training your brain constantly can make your ‘aged’ brain sharp for 10 more years. Brain exercises improve one’s brain wave activity, attention, memory, and visual coordination. All these help to keep your brain dementia-free.
Constant use of the memory
Constantly using your mind greatly improves on both your short term and long term memory. As you age you realize that you tend to use less of your brain unlike your active days and this causes your brain to slowly become dormant. You can engage in either of the following activities to help you jog your memory:
- Reading storybooks and then narrating the story to someone else.
- Listening to songs and memorizing the words
- Making a list of items and memorizing them. A good example is writing down your list of grocery items then trying to remember them when going to shop.
- Cooking using a recipe
- Getting a pet to care for
- Engaging in creative activities like painting, crocheting, jewelry and card making.
- Learning a new skill or language
- Drawing maps of places you’ve been to.
Engaging in social interaction
It may be very tempting to want to just stay indoors because you lack the physical energy you once had. But social isolation can easily lead to depression, mental decline as well as physical decline. This is because humans are wired to be social- to interact, to make emotional connections and have conversations. This is one of the most important aspects of human lives.
You need to interact with people and have conversations to keep your brain active. If you are not mobile enough to go out, you can invite your friends and family to come over for a weekend or even just for a few hours. It will make a great difference in your mood and spirit.
Otherwise, step out of your house at least twice every week. Go visit a friend, a relative or a neighbor across the street. Take a walk around the block, sign up for a class, go watch a movie, join a book club, volunteer for community activities, join game nights, or make a long phone call to your siblings.
Maintain your physical fitness
Studies have shown that seniors who engage in physical exercises have a 50 % less chance of developing dementia. And these physical exercises don’t have to be intense, just moderate is fine.
“It doesn’t require intensive physical activity to decrease the risk of dementia. Even moderate amounts are fine.”, says Dr. Zaldy Tan, a senior researcher. He is a medical director of the Alzheimer’s and Dementia Care Program at the University of California, Los Angeles.
So what are some of the moderate exercises that you can incorporate into your daily routine?
- Brisk morning or evening walks around the park. You can do this as you take your dog out for a walk.
- Cycling on low speed of at least 10 miles an hour
- Yoga for the elderly. Yoga is very beneficial in keeping stress away, strengthening the bones and muscles and building balance. Most senior care communities and fitness clubs have yoga for the elderly.
The key thing when choosing the best exercises for your body is safe. As well, choose an activity that you will enjoy. This will keep you motivated and committed. Even better is an activity that you can do with other people like swimming at the YMCA or dancing at the local senior community center. This way you get to socialize and exercise all at once. Should you experience any weaknesses, dizziness, pain or discomfort during an exercise, stop and consult your doctor.
Eat a healthy diet
Researchers have established that eating certain foods continually helps to keep off dementia. Nutritionists have come up with diets that they have tested and confirmed help to keep dementia away. Diets such as the ‘mind diet’ (Mediterranean Intervention for Neurogenerative Delay) which is the most popular. It incorporates a low sodium diet and a Mediterranean diet. This diet plan is said to reduce the risk of developing dementia by at least 35 %.
From the research gathered, your diet should contain the following:
Green leafy vegetables
Dark green leafy vegetables such as spinach, collards, amaranth, kale, and romaine contain vitamin k and antioxidants that help boost brain activity. These are best when eaten raw. If you don’t like the taste of raw vegetables you can add fruits to make a smoothie.
Servings: Six servings a week or one cup daily
Other vegetables like the Brussels’ sprouts, cauliflower and broccoli also come in highly recommended because they contain anti-oxidants. To get the best of these vegetables, stir fry them lightly for a few minutes.
Servings: 3 1/2 cup servings in a week
Berries generally are good in boosting brain activity. However, researchers highly recommended blueberries to keep off dementia. They contain flavonoid which helps in activating brain pathways.
Servings: 1/2 cup three times a week
Nuts are very high in healthy fats, fiber, and antioxidants. These nutrients are essential for proper brain functioning. You can take them as a snack or make butter that you can add to your food and spread on your bread.
Servings: 5 servings every week
Fish contains omega-3 fatty acids which help in protecting and boosting brain power and functioning. Choose fatty fish like the salmon and trout.
Servings: At least once every week
White meat is healthier and a great substitute for red meat. If you can get free-range chicken the better. Poultry is a great source of proteins.
Servings: twice a week
Beans contain a combination of fiber, vitamins, minerals, and anti-oxidants. All of which are crucial for good brain health. They are also a good substitute for red meat.
Servings: ½ cup twice a week
Whole grains are rich in fiber and minerals. Choose high-fiber grains like brown rice and oats.
Servings: three a day.
Olive oil contains healthy fats, antioxidants, and vitamins that boost brain and cognitive functions. Use olive oil to Cook your meals and dress your salads. Also, incorporate a glass of wine at least every day and low-fat dairy (1 % skim milk and yogurt and cheese with no more than 22 % milkfat)
Foods to avoid
Avoid processed foods, fast foods, and baked sugary foods and take red meat and butter in moderation.
Getting quality sleep
Lack of quality sleep is a possible risk factor for dementia. Your brain needs to rest to recharge. And so if you are unable to sleep through the night for at least 8 hours every day then it means you’re are overworking your brain and it’s only a matter of time before it starts lapsing. And the lapsing starts with memory loss.
To get quality sleep establish a regular sleep routine; go to bed at the same time every day and wake up at the same. This puts your brain into a rhythm. Your routine should also include your bedtime ritual like reading a book before sleep or taking a hot bath. This prepares your body for sleep. If you have trouble sleeping at night, you may want to avoid daytime naps. Otherwise, naps in the early afternoons are a great way to recharge. Keep them under an hour.
Learn to manage stress
Stress takes a toll on the brain and it can lead to memory area shrinkage. This then becomes a risk factor for dementia. Learn ways to deal with stress and address your stress triggers as early as possible. Learn how to tactfully react to stressful situations. Sometimes laugh at yourself for your silly mistakes. Breathe in and out when you are too angered, take a walk in the park to cool off, take a long relaxing bath or do some relaxation yoga exercises.
Other ways to wade off dementia
- Drink alcohol in moderation. Heavy alcohol consumption can accelerate brain aging.
- Watch your weight. Being overweight puts you at risk of developing dementia
- Quit smoking. Studies show that smokers have an 80 % higher risk of developing dementia compared to non-smokers. This is because smoking inhibits oxygen circulation in the brain.
- Watch your blood pressure and cholesterol levels. These two are linked to an increase in dementia.
To wrap up
As established, dementia is not an aging condition but age is a big risk factor that is why dementia is prevalent among the seniors. Sadly, there is no cure for treatment of progressive dementia that is why you must prevent it. Keep off dementia by adopting a lifestyle change, diet and maintaining physical and mental fitness.