The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that 5.8 million Americans live with dementia, which is “a general term for the impaired ability to remember, think, or make decisions that interferes with doing everyday activities.” Currently there is no cure, but there are signs that point to dementia to be mindful of and there are healthy habits we can adopt to help fight it. Eat This, Not That! Health talked to Dr. Verna R. Porter, MD, neurologist and director of the Dementia, Alzheimer’s Disease and Neurocognitive Disorders at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, CA who explained symptoms to watch out for what we can do to help prevent it. Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don’t miss these Sure Signs You’ve Already Had COVID.
According to Dr. Porter, “Mild forgetfulness is a common complaint in people as they age. Examples of common memory complaints that may occasionally occur during normal aging include misplacing objects around the house, forgetting the names of less familiar acquaintances, forgetting your intent upon entering a room, or having some difficulty remembering lesser details of what you have read or of prior conversations. Occasionally finding difficulty and feeling that a word is on the ‘tip of the tongue,’ but you are having some difficulty retrieving it is also not uncommon. Although such infrequent memory lapses may be frustrating, they are not necessarily a cause for concern. Normal, age-related memory changes are very different from dementia.”
Dr. Porter explains, “The main difference between age-related memory loss and dementia is that in normal aging the forgetfulness does not interfere with your ability to carry on with normal daily activities. In other words, the memory lapses have little impact on your daily life, or your ability to carry on the usual chores, tasks and routines that comprise our daily lives. In contrast, dementia is characterized by marked, persistent, and disabling decline in two or more intellectual abilities such as memory, language, judgment or abstract reasoning, that significantly interfere with and disrupt your normal daily activities.”
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“When memory loss becomes so pervasive that it begins to disrupt your work, hobbies, social activities, and family relationships, this may suggest the warning signs of an evolving dementia syndrome or a condition that mimics dementia,” Dr. Porter says.
“You should seek out care if you or a family members notices that you are:
- Repetitively asking the same question
- Forgetting a word/phrase or idea when speaking
- Inserting the wrong word in conversation e.g. saying ‘chair’ instead of ‘sofa’ for example
- Taking longer to complete daily chores, tasks or affairs (e.g. paying bills or managing the mail)
- Frequently misplacing objects/items around the house
- Getting lost while walking or driving in a relatively familiar areas
- Having sudden or unexplained changes in mood, personality or behavior without a clear reason”
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There are a few things that people can do to help prevent and lower the risk of getting dementia and/or Alzheimer’s, Dr. Porter states. “According to the Alzheimer’s Research & Prevention Foundation, regular physical exercise can reduce your risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease by up to 50 percent. The target is to exercise 30-45 minutes per day, 4-5 days per week. Exercise may slow existing cognitive deterioration by stabilizing older brain connections (synapses) and help make new connections possible. The ideal is to increase physical activity through a combination of aerobic exercise and strength training. Examples of good exercises are cycling, walking or swimming. Balance and coordination exercises may also help as well (e.g. yoga, Tai Chi, or exercises using balance balls).”
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Dr. Porter explains, “The MIND diet is associated with a reduced risk of cognitive decline and Alzheimer’s disease. The MIND diet has 15 dietary components, including 10 ‘brain-healthy food groups:’
- Green leafy vegetables
- Other vegetables
- Berries (esp blueberries and strawberries)
- Whole grains
- Olive oil
- resveratrol (supplement derived from red wine)
A growing body of research has implicated a strong link between metabolic disorders (e.g. diabetes) and impaired nerve signaling in the brain. Better eating habits may help by reducing inflammation in the brain, which in turn helps to protect the brain.” And to get through this pandemic at your healthiest, don’t miss these 35 Places You’re Most Likely to Catch COVID.