Dementia is an umbrella term that encompasses a range of conditions associated with mental decline severe enough to interfere with a person’s daily life. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common type of dementia, followed by vascular
dementia, which occurs after a stroke. Some types of dementia are irreversible, while others, such as those caused by thyroid problems and vitamin deficiencies, can be reversed.
Many people believe dementia is a normal part of aging. This is not true. While
dementia is more common in people over age 65, it is not a normal symptom of
getting older. Dementia can affect memory, communication, focus, reasoning, and
visual perception, and the symptoms gradually get worse over time. While the
causes of dementia are not always known, there are some risk factors to be aware
Risk factors for dementia
Age is the greatest risk factor for developing dementia. Genetics play a role, too.
While there’s nothing we can do to change our DNA or stop time, there are a number
of modifiable risk factors that we can do something about in order to lower the
likelihood of developing Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia. Take a
look below at some of the major risk factors, and talk to your doctor about how to
keep your brain as healthy as possible for as long as you can.
The vascular system is comprised of the heart and the blood vessels that supply blood to the brain. When this system is compromised, the brain suffers and the risk of dementia increases. Living a heart healthy lifestyle can reduce your likelihood of developing dementia.
Physical inactivity and obesity
Just 10 or 20 minutes a day of walking can significantly decrease the risk for developing dementia. Walking improves cerebral blood flow and lowers the risk of cardiovascular disease, another risk factor for dementia.
Type 2 diabetes is associated with obesity and lack of exercise. It raises
the risk of heart disease and stroke, which damage the blood vessels. It also causes
an imbalance in essential chemicals that the brain needs for optimal functioning.
Studies have shown that adults with Type 2 diabetes are at risk of later developing
Sleep apnea, insomnia, and other disorders that affect the duration and quality of sleep can, if left untreated, have a lasting effect on the brain. People who suffer from sleep apnea in particular are two to three times more likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease than those who don’t. Talk to your doctor if you’re
not sleeping well.
Researchers found that depressed older adults were more than twice as likely to develop vascular dementia and 65% more likely to develop Alzheimer’s than people of the same age who did not suffer from depression. If you suffer from depression, treatment is available.
Not every head injury leads to an elevated risk of developing dementia, but research does point toward links between moderate, severe, and repeated traumatic brain injuries. Seniors over age 75 have the highest rate of traumatic brain injury related hospitalization due to falls. Injury prevention is an important part of maintaining optimal health in advanced age.
Drug and alcohol consumption
Drugs and alcohol kill brain cells at a faster rate than aging does. One study showed that mid-life binge drinkers are three times more likely to have dementia by age 65 than those who did not binge drink.
Cigarette smoking negatively affects many different parts of our bodies, and it should come as no surprise that this includes the brain. Not only are the chemical toxins in cigarettes harmful, but smoking can also cause cerebrovascular disease, which leads to stroke and further damage to blood vessels. Smokers are also more likely to have sleep apnea, another risk factor for dementia.
Recovery and rehabilitation at Bella Vista Health Center
Cardiovascular health is crucial for maintaining optimal brain health. If you or someone you love has recently suffered from a heart attack or a stroke, our cardiac and stroke rehabilitation programs can help you recover, regain independence, and lower your risk of developing dementia and other complications. For more
information on our cardiac rehab, stroke rehab, pulmonary rehab, or other programs and services, drop by our 5-star skilled nursing facility in Lemon Grove today or give us a call at (619) 644-1000.