Ways to stay sharp and prevent dementia

It’s never too early to focus on a healthy lifestyle, but it’s typically recommend patients begin thinking about preventive measures for later in life by age 45 to 50. Your primary care physician is a great resource for prevention information and recommendations.

As we age, we find it harder to recall names and tend to misplace items a bit more than we used to. Some age-related memory decline is normal and expected. However, when memory issues regularly affect our ability to function, those symptoms may point to a more serious issue like dementia.

What are the risk factors/causes of dementia?

The most common risk factors for dementia include:

  • Low education level
  • Hypertension
  • Obesity
  • Hearing loss
  • Depression
  • Diabetes
  • Inactivity
  • Social isolation
  • Increased age
  • Genetics.

It’s also suspected that the following factors can contribute to dementia:

  • Certain medications
  • Sleep apnea
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Air pollution and toxins
  • Vitamin D deficiency
  • Head trauma
  • Kidney or vascular disease
  • Atrial fibrillation.

It should be noted there are different types of dementia that have different risk factors. The most common type is Alzheimer’s disease. Additional types include vascular dementia (stroke), Lewy body dementia, frontotemporal dementia and Parkinson’s disease.

At what age should someone start to think about preventing dementia?

It’s never too early to focus on a healthy lifestyle, but it’s typically recommend patients begin thinking about preventive measures for later in life by age 45 to 50. Your primary care physician is a great resource for prevention information and recommendations.

Some things you can do on your own to help prevent dementia include getting regular exercise, getting adequate nutrition and keeping your blood pressure under control. Brain exercises are also excellent for keeping you mentally sharp—these are activities that require your brain to work extra hard. So doing word puzzles, learning something new or doing math without a calculator are all great brain exercises.

Be sure to regularly review any medication you are taking with your primary care physician and be upfront about any side effects you may be experiencing.

Why do seniors have more trouble remembering things?

As we age, our brain’s ability to process gets slower. This can lead to age-associated memory decline, which is different from dementia. While it’s normal for an older person to have trouble remembering things and this doesn’t necessarily mean they are at risk for dementia, if you are concerned about yourself or a loved one, you should consult your primary care physician.

How can seniors stay mentally sharp and maintain their memory?

The term “use it or lose it” applies to your brain health. Challenging yourself with puzzles, games or learning something new can help boost your thinking and brain function. Plus, you can have fun while doing it!

Of course, physical health plays a role as well. You should focus on eating a healthy diet, getting adequate sleep and physical exercise and avoiding stress. Some foods thought to be beneficial in supporting brain function are blueberries, turmeric, broccoli, nuts, dark chocolate, green tea and generally foods high in omega-3s. 

If you’re experiencing some forgetfulness, try developing and sticking to a routine, using cues (make a list, always put your keys and wallet/purse in the same place) and storing items together that are used at the same time.

AdventHealth Medical Group offices as well as specialty clinics have access to clinical social workers who can assist patients and families with referrals to support groups, driving evaluations, alternative living arrangement options, home care options and the Alzheimer’s Association. AdventHealth neurologists as well as some primary care providers are trained to assist with the diagnosis and treatment of memory loss and dementia. If you need a primary care provider, visit MyHealthKC.com and get matched with a doctor who’s right for you.