Dementia is a disorder that affects memory, behavior and one’s thinking ability. An estimated 6.2 million Americans aged 65 and older live with dementia according to the National Library of Medicine and while it does mainly affect an older population, people in their 30s, 40s and 50s have been known to have dementia as well. There’s many signs that someone has the condition and Eat This, Not That! Health spoke with medical experts who explained what signs to watch out for and what mistakes you’ve made that indicate you may have dementia. Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don’t miss these Sure Signs You’ve Already Had COVID.
Dr. Rudolf Probst, a Medical Doctor specialized in immunology, gynecology, internal medicine and surgery says, “Dementia can be caused by alcohol and substance use disorder. In order to avoid it, do not abuse alcohol or any substance. Chronic alcoholic use will cause disruption of vitamin B needed by the brain, leading to neuronal toxicity which can result in dementia caused by alcohol. So in order for you to avoid this type of dementia, use alcohol moderately or avoid it altogether.”
According to Dr. Probst, “If you have a vitamin B12 deficiency, you might be a candidate for dementia. If you avoid taking food rich with vitamin B12 like liver, fish, beef among others, dementia could be knocking. Some studies have shown that a low vitamin B12 increases the risk of dementia. Elevated methylmalonic acid and serum homocysteine levels show a lack of Enough vitamin B12. This is associated with Alzheimer’s disease. Vitamin B12 deficiency is mostly seen in the elderly population. The best way to avoid dementia is to use B12 supplements and take a diet full of vitamin B12 nutrients like liver, fish, beef, chicken, cereals among others.”
“If you get depression and you do not get treatment for it then you will likely develop dementia. When a person is depressed, it is difficult to reason clearly or even find sleep,” Dr. Probst says. “Depression mostly comes with old age and most patients can get depressed through loss of a family member, moving from home into an assisted living facility or side effects from medication to other conditions. It is true that depression and dementia go hand in hand and so as to prevent the risk of dementia then prevent those factors causing depression if possible.”
Dr. Jeffrey Landsman, Board Certified in Family Medicine and Geriatrics with Mercy Medical Center, says “Many people have trouble with memory and worry that they may have dementia. There are certain memory lapses that are common and would be considered normal aging. There are other memory lapses that are more concerning for possible dementia. Forgetting where you put your keys would be an example of a normal memory lapse that we all experience but tends to get more frequent as we get older. Forgetting what your keys are supposed to be used for would be concerning for possible dementia. Another memory mistake that would be concerning possible dementia would be getting lost driving somewhere that is a familiar place that you go to often. Very often, patients with dementia are unaware of their memory deficits and they are pointed out by their family members.”
Dr. Verna R. Porter, MD, neurologist and director of the Dementia, Alzheimer’s Disease and Neurocognitive Disorders at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, CA. adds, “Mild forgetfulness is a common complaint in people as they age. Examples of common memory complaints that may occasionally occur during normal aging include misplacing objects around the house, forgetting the names of less familiar acquaintances, forgetting your intent upon entering a room, or having some difficulty remembering lesser details of what you have read or of prior conversations. Occasionally finding difficulty and feeling that a word is on the ‘tip of the tongue,’ but you are having some difficulty retrieving it is also not uncommon. Although such infrequent memory lapses may be frustrating, they are not necessarily a cause for concern. Normal, age-related memory changes are very different from dementia.”
Dr. Porter says, “The main difference between age-related memory loss and dementia is that in normal aging the forgetfulness does not interfere with your ability to carry on with normal daily activities. In other words, the memory lapses have little impact on your daily life, or your ability to carry on the usual chores, tasks and routines that comprise our daily lives. In contrast, dementia is characterized by marked, persistent, and disabling decline in two or more intellectual abilities such as memory, language, judgment or abstract reasoning, that significantly interfere with and disrupt your normal daily activities. When memory loss becomes so pervasive that it begins to disrupt your work, hobbies, social activities, and family relationships, this may suggest the warning signs of an evolving dementia syndrome or a condition that mimics dementia.”
According to Dr. Porter, “You should seek out care if you or a family members notices that you are:
- Repetitively asking the same question
- Forgetting a word/phrase or idea when speaking
- Inserting the wrong word in conversation e.g. saying ‘chair’ instead of ‘sofa’ for example
- Taking longer to complete daily chores, tasks or affairs (e.g. paying bills or managing the mail)
- Frequently misplacing objects/items around the house
- Getting lost while walking or driving in a relatively familiar areas
- Having sudden or unexplained changes in mood, personality or behavior without a clear reason”
Dr. Porter says, “These are some things that people can do to help protect/diminish their chances of getting dementia and/or Alzheimer’s later in life:
Engage in regular exercise: According to the Alzheimer’s Research & Prevention Foundation, regular physical exercise can reduce your risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease by up to 50 percent. The target is to exercise 30-45 minutes per day, 4-5 days per week. Exercise may slow existing cognitive deterioration by stabilizing older brain connections (synapses) and help make new connections possible. The ideal is to increase physical activity through a combination of aerobic exercise and strength training. Examples of good exercises are cycling, walking or swimming. Balance and coordination exercises may also help as well (e.g. yoga, Tai Chi, or exercises using balance balls).
Social engagement: Staying socially engaged may help protect against Alzheimer’s disease and dementia in later life; maintaining a strong network of family and friends is very important. Regularly connecting with others, face-to-face, is important. Social connections may also be enhanced through volunteer organizations, joining various clubs or social group, taking a group classes (e.g. in a gym or a community college) or getting out into the community (e.g. going to the movies, the park, museums, and other public places).
Healthy diet: The MIND diet is associated with a reduced risk of cognitive decline and Alzheimer’s disease. The MIND diet has 15 dietary components, including 10 brain-healthy food groups:
- Green leafy vegetables
- Other vegetables
- Berries (esp blueberries and strawberries)
- Whole grains
- Olive oil
- resveratrol (supplement derived from red wine)
A growing body of research has implicated a strong link between metabolic disorders (e.g. diabetes) and impaired nerve signaling in the brain. Better eating habits may help by reducing inflammation in the brain, which in turn helps to protect the brain.
Mental stimulation: keep stimulating your brain throughout life by engaging intellectually. Education at any age may protect against cognitive decline. Consider taking a class or volunteering to keep your brain fit while staying socially engaged. Visit ‘Experience Corps, Volunteer Match, Serve.gov, or Volunteer.gov to learn more.’ Learn something new. Study a foreign language, practice a musical instrument, learn to paint or sew, or read the newspaper or a good book.
Quality sleep: People with Alzheimer’s disease often suffer from insomnia and other sleep-related disturbances. Research studies have linked poor sleep to higher levels of beta-amyloid depositions in the brain. Beta-amyloid is a pathological hallmark of the disease and is essentially a sticky ‘brain-clogging protein’ that in turn interferes with brain function and with sleep—especially with the deep REM sleep necessary for memory formation. Other studies emphasize the importance of uninterrupted sleep for flushing out brain toxins – including beta-amyloid. Poor sleep may also lead to slowed thinking and may also cause reduced/poor mood. It is also important to adequately treat obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) since incompletely treated, or insufficiently treated, OSA may increase the risk for cerebrovascular and/or cardiovascular diseases as well as the risk of developing dementia.
Stress management: Chronic or persistent stress can actually lead to nerve cell decline and even death, which may manifest as atrophy (shrinkage in size) of important memory areas in the brain. Nerve cell dysfunction and degeneration in turn increases the risk of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. Engage in relaxation techniques (e.g. breathing exercises, prayer, medication or yoga). Studies have shown that regular meditation, prayer, reflection, and religious practice may diminish the damaging effects of stress on the brain.” And to get through this pandemic at your healthiest, don’t miss these 35 Places You’re Most Likely to Catch COVID.