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Dementia: 8 Steps For Prevention

Dementia. Just the word strikes fear in the heart. However, there are many dementia types, so the condition isn't easily described as a specific disease. But depending on the type, dementia leads to impaired cognitive function. For example, Alzheimer’s disease, one of the dementia types, can include memory loss and thinking skills. However, while dementia causes memory loss, not all memory loss stems from dementia. Additionally, dementia causes or can cause depression, mood swings, poor judgment and irritability. And quite often, dementia causes a severe disrupt in daily functioning. Other dementia types include or can stem from Parkinson’s disease, Huntington’s disease, and frontotemporal dementia. Fortunately, dementia treatment methods can help. Dementia treatment methods involve managing symptoms. Traditional dementia treatment methods include medication and therapy. Other dementia treatment methods include exercise and learning how to communicate with the patient. But as there is no cure for dementia, prevention is crucial. (1)

Here are 8 steps for prevention of dementia:

1. Watch Out For High Copper Levels in Your Water

While you need trace amounts of copper to survive, too much of it can be harmful to your brain. In fact, a 2013 study found that copper can trigger the onset of Alzheimer’s. Furthermore, it can fuel the disease. Researchers in this study haven’t specified as to what “too much” copper is. However, it’s a good idea to get your water tested for excess copper. (2) You’ll want a water filter that is NSF-certified under NSF/ANSI 53 for copper reduction. It will reduce copper to below the EPA’s maximum contaminant level or lower. (3)

2. Avoid Allergy Drugs and Other Pills Linked to Dementia

Common allergy and sleep medications are linked to dementia. This includes many popular medications such as Benadryl, Dramamine, Advil PM and Unison. These pills are known to have anticholinergic effects, which is something researchers are more and more linking to dementia. (4) A 2016 study used brain imaging to detect how anticholinergic drugs impact the brain. With imaging technology, researchers were able to show how people taking anticholinergic drugs experienced lower brain metabolism and higher brain atrophy. Furthermore, participants taking the anticholinergic drugs produced the worst results on memory tests. (5) Additionally, University of Washington scientists found the chronic use of certain anticholinergic sleep aids and allergy meds increased a person’s risk of dementia. However, the study found the link for only people taking these drugs for three or more years. (6) If you can, you should find other ways to alleviate your allergy symptoms. And you should incorporate more natural, safe ways to help you sleep. You might, for example, try essential oils. A 2010 study suggests peppermint oil acts as a relaxant and exhibits antispasmodic activity. This inhibits contractions that make you cough. (7) Just be sure to not use it on children under 30 months. It can impact the heart, lungs and circulation in dangerous ways. (8)

3. Sleep in A Brain-Friendly Position

It may not seem like a huge deal, but sleep positions matter. Most people sleep on their sides. And it turns out, this may be the best position for your brain. It has to do with the draining of harmful substances. A study found that the brain’s glymphatic pathway, a complex system that clears wastes and other harmful chemicals from the brain, worked best when people slept on their sides. This was in comparison to people who sleep on their bellies or backs. (9)

4. Avoid Brain-Damaging Pesticides

Evidence suggest more and more than dementia isn’t just a genetic issue. Researchers have linked environmental triggers like DDT to Alzheimer’s. People with higher levels of DDT in their blood are much more likely to be diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. (10) Animal and fatty foods contain the highest levels of DDT. This is because they’re stored in fat and increase in concentration as they move up the food chain. (11) Furthermore, some non-organic produce imported from countries still use DDT. (12) If you’re still not convinced that pesticides are harmful, a 2015 study found people who ingested food treated with acetamiprid, an insecticide, complained of symptoms like memory loss, finger tremors and headache. (13)

5. Live a Purposeful Life

Rush University Medical Center revealed a noteworthy connection between a person’s sense of purpose and dementia risk. Participants who reported the highest scores on the life purpose test were 2.4 times less likely to develop Alzheimer’s compared to people with the lowest scores. Living a life full of purpose included things like feeling good about past accomplishments and hope for the future. (14) To find more a purpose in your life, you might try volunteering or reaching out more to friends. You might also try taking up a hobby that interests you.

6. Beware of Low Vitamin D Levels

A 2015 study suggested that people severely vitamin D deficient face a 122 percent increased risk of dementia. (15) To determine if you are vitamin D deficient, ask your doctor for a blood test. Be sure to get the actual number, rather than a descriptive word such as “normal”. If you need to supplement, make sure it’s with the vitamin D3 form. This kind is more readily available to your body than D2.

7. Take Care of Your Teeth and Gums

Poor oral hygiene may be linked to Alzheimer’s disease as well. A study investigated the dental habits of about 5,500 older people over an 18-year period. Researchers found a strong link between people with poor oral hygiene and the development of Alzheimer’s disease. Those who reported brushing their teeth less than once a day were up to 65 percent more likely to develop dementia. This was compared to people who brushed twice a day. (16) The author of the study noted that bacteria from gum disease may find its way to the brain. This then sets off an inflammatory process that causes brain damage. (17)

8. Stay Active

A 2017 study analyzed vascular cognitive impairment in regards to dementia. Specifically, they studied how exercise affects patients. Researchers recruited 38 older people who had been diagnosed with a mild, early form of vascular cognitive impairment. None of the subjects exercised at the time. Researchers measure participants’ brain activity, then started the exercise regimen. The regimen was three supervised one-hour sessions a week. Supervisors told participants to move at a brisk pace; enough to raise their heart rates to about 65 percent of their maximum capacity. By the end of the study, the brains of those in the exercise group were working differently. They showed less activity in areas required for attention and rapid decision-making. Researchers significantly associated reduced activity in these brain regions with faster task performance. (18)