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Can Dementia Be Prevented?

As we age, the fear of dementia or developing Alzheimer’s Disease is very real. Statistics show that “as many as five million Americans, age 65 and older, may have Alzheimer’s and it’s estimated that number will double for every five year interval beyond age 65.” Alzheimer’s is the most commonly thought of form of dementia, but there are other forms.

Dementia Puzzle

What are the risk factors?

The direct, or exact cause of dementia has yet to be pinpointed, but there are various risk factors that include:

  1. Age
  2. Smoking
  3. Atherosclerosis
  4. Diabetes
  5. Alcohol use
  6. Hypertension
  7. Genetic predisposition

Research has also shown other risk factors and they include the use of anticholinergic drugs – these can include Benadryl, Tylenol PM and prescription medications for depression and urinary incontinence.

The professors in the study said they didn’t determine the amount of the medication taken, just that it was taken. They found a relational increase between taking any of the drugs and developing dementia. The reason they determined was that the “drugs block the ability of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine to act with the receptors.”

If the patients went off of those medications the researchers found the risk for developing dementia fell back to normal levels. They caution patients to not stop taking their medications without first checking with their physician.

Low levels of Vitamin D in patients also increase their risk of cognitive decline in:

  1. Episodic memory
  2. Executive function
  3. Semantic memory
  4. Visuospatial abilities

It’s not known yet whether taking Vitamin D supplements will solve the possible decline in cognitive abilities, but those supplements are relatively safe.

Vitamin D can be found in:

  • Fatty fish (tuna, mackerel, swordfish, and salmon)
  • Dairy products
  • Orange juice
  • Soy milk
  • Certain cereals
  • Beef liver
  • Cod liver oil
  • Swiss cheese
  • Egg yolks

Those suffering from heartburn who take heartburn medications may also run the risk of developing dementia. Heartburn medications that have proton pump inhibitors (PPH) have also been shown as a link in developing dementia for those over the age of 65. These medications include Prevacid and Priolsec, among others.

Individuals shouldn’t stop taking their medications without talking with their doctor, but they should be wary of long-term use and a change in diet and exercise habits could help prevent heartburn and therefore the need for the medications.

If you’re caring for a loved one who already has dementia or Alzheimers, you know how daunting daily care can be. If you’re healthy but want to take steps to avoid these diseases, do a little research, speak to your doctor and take steps now to make tomorrow more healthy.

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