Recognizing signs of dementiaWritten by Stephen Roberts | | firstname.lastname@example.org
Many of us know someone who is losing their intellectual capacities. We also may wonder if we ourselves are showing the early signs of dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, as we go through our days forgetting things and misplacing glasses.
Roughly 2 million Americans have severe dementia and another 1 to 5 million have milder forms of the condition. Risk factors for dementia include smoking, heavy alcohol use, high levels of LDL cholesterol and Diabetes.
Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia with close to 5 percent of Americans between 65 and 74 having the condition. Almost 50 percent of people over 85 have the disease.
Estimates are that by 2050, 13 million Americans will develop Alzheimer’s disease if preventive measures are not further developed and carried out. Many scientists have been working to discover relationships between various behaviors and the prevalence of Alzheimer’s disease in different populations.
Dr. Suvi Rovio and colleagues questioned 1,251 Finnish people in midlife about their exercise history with regards to intensity, duration and frequency. The participants were divided into two groups: those who had exercised to the point of becoming breathless and sweaty for 20 to 30 minutes twice a week or more, and individuals who did less. Those who were in the active group had a 2.9 percent chance of dementia while those in the more sedentary group had a 5.2 percent risk of dementia.
Dr. Amy Borenstein and her research team studied more than 1,800 older Japanese-Americans from Seattle about their previous eating behaviors. They found that those who had a history of drinking at least three glasses of fruit or vegetable juice a week lessened their risk of developing Alzheimer’s 75 percent, compared with those who drank juice less than once a week.
Dr. Joe Verghese and his colleagues followed 469 adults aged 75 to 85 for five years to discover the impact of leisure behaviors on dementia. The questionnaire that was used measured the occurrence of various activities such as: reading, writing for pleasure, crossword puzzles, board and card games, group discussions, playing musical instruments and several physical pursuits. Behaviors that were associated with a lower risk of dementia were playing board games, playing a musical instrument, reading and dancing. An example of a more specific finding was that a participant that worked on crossword puzzles four days a week had 47 percent lower risk of dementia compared with someone who did them only once a week.
Other behaviors that have been associated with a decreased risk of Alzheimer’s are losing weight, flossing and brushing regularly, eating foods with omega-3 fatty acids such as salmon, almonds and walnuts and taking supplements of folic acid.
It is important to point out the behaviors mentioned in this article have not actually been proven to decrease the risk of Alzheimer’s disease. Rather, the studies have pointed out that people with a lower risk of the disease are more likely to have participated in the mentioned behaviors. Other variables that have yet to be thoroughly studied may be having a significant impact on the prevalence of the disease.
The good news is that most people are able to easily engage in the behaviors that have been mentioned. It is also the case that the activities that have been discussed are considered healthy for most people whether they decrease the risk of Alzheimer’s disease or not. If you plan to make significant changes in your exercise or dietary behaviors be sure to check with the appropriate health professional.
Stephen Roberts is an Associate Professor in the Department of Public Health & Rehabilitative Services at the University of Toledo. He may be reached via e-mail at email@example.com.