Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia. It progresses slowly, but eventually leads to severe memory loss, changes in judgment, difficulty with speech, and dependence on others for everyday tasks. Unfortunately, no one is immune to the threat of cognitive illness. In the last decade, many well-known figures such as Ronald Reagan, Rita Hayworth, and most recently, Margaret Thatcher, suffered from dementia. Although Alzheimer’s disease remains an incurable illness, causing untold burden on families and loved ones, there is hope for prevention.
As the normal age-related changes begin occurring (benign forgetfulness and occasional word-finding problems), many healthy middle-aged people begin to worry about developing dementia, especially if they have watched family members succumb to the illness. Until recently, prevention or delay of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia was unheard of. It was thought that little could be done to prevent a disease that had no conclusive cause, no effective treatment and likely began 20 years prior to the diagnosis. Now we know better, and there is good news. Geriatric specialist, Dr. Miia Kivipelto and her research team studied middle-aged, healthy adults and discovered that the following four factors greatly reduced the risk of dementia occurring 20 years later:
Systolic blood pressure ≤ 140 mmg Hg
Total cholesterol ≤ 6.5 mmol/L
Body mass index ≤ 30 kg/m2
Exercising twice a week for 20 mins (moderate to vigorous range)
Unlike age or genetics, these four risk factors can be modified by lifestyle changes, medication, or other interventions. Reducing your risk factors will improve your chances of living free from the devastating effects of Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias.
Taking charge of your brain health need not be complicated or overwhelming, and it starts with simple, gradual steps in the right direction. Start your path to improved brain health by following these four tips:
Know your numbers
Do you know your systolic blood pressure, total cholesterol, and body mass index? If not, check the results of your last Copeman Healthcare Comprehensive Health Assessment online (www.copemanhealthcare.com and click on Client Sign In) or contact your Family Health Nurse.
Revisit your personalized healthcare plan
Your personalized healthcare plan was created to help you reduce your risk of disease. If you are having trouble implementing any of the recommended changes, please book an appointment with your Family Health Nurse to help you get on track and stay on track.
Make sure to eat well. Your diet may contribute to 3 out of the 4 risk factors, so speak to your dietitian if you need help setting up a healthy eating plan and learn more about dietary factors that may be good for the brain.
With your doctor’s approval, make sure you are working out at least twice a week, at a high intensity (e.g., you are perspiring and talking is beginning to be difficult). If you aren’t working out, begin by walking twice a week for 20 minutes.
If you are concerned about your memory or overall cognitive skills, please contact your nearest Copeman Healthcare Centre to book an appointment. Let us create a plan to ensure your optimal brain health.