Q: Both of my parents were diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease when they were in their eighties. Lately I have noticed trouble remembering the names of people, this was never a problem when I was younger. I talked to my physician about this when I had my annual check-up. After asking me several questions he didn’t think this was a real concern at this point.
He thinks this is just a normal age-related memory deficit. Is there anything I can do to help prevent what occurred with my parents?
A: Unfortunately there is no absolute way to prevent dementia. However there is evidence which supports a healthy lifestyle can to some extent reduce the risk of developing dementia.
Age and genetics are out of our control but we do have the ability to make positive changes in our life.
According to the Alzheimer’s Research & Prevention Foundation regular physical exercise can reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease by up to fifty percent. Most of us are aware physical activity is good for the heart, weight and circulation but we may not have realized how important it can be for our mental wellbeing. Another issue is smoking…make every effort to quit! Smoking impacts blood vessels leading to the heart, lung and brain as well.
Recommendations include eating a healthy balanced diet. Cut down on sugars, avoid trans fats, eat plenty of omega 3 fats. Some studies indicate eating a diet rich in vegetables, beans, whole grains, fish and olive oil dramatically reduces the risk of cognitive impairment. Folic acid, Vitamin B12, magnesium and fish oil may help to preserve brain health. Also beware of excessive alcohol consumption.
We have already mentioned exercising the body, exercise the brain as well. In other words mental stimulation is very important.
This can be done in numerous ways…playing board games, reading books, puzzles, learn something new or practice memorization (example: capitals of states). Also remain socially engaged, contact with people is essential. Attempt to get 7-8 hours of sleep every night and pay attention to stress management.
You have already brought your concerns to your doctor’s attention. As with any change in your health always seek medical advice if new symptoms develop.
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Do you have a question? We encourage inquiries and comments from our readers. Please direct your correspondence to firstname.lastname@example.org or Elder Services of the Merrimack Valley, Inc., Age Information Department, 280 Merrimack Street, Suite 400, Lawrence, MA 01843. Joan Hatem-Roy is the Chief Executive Officer of Elder Services of Merrimack Valley and North Shore.