By Dr. David Hutchings
Specialist in Neuropathology and Dementia
Chief Operating Officer, Spectramed
I have spent nearly two decades working with patients and families who are affected by dementia. I get asked quite often if it is possible to prevent the development of this disease. I want to answer that question to the best of my ability and based on literature.
First, let me explain that there are many forms of dementia, and Alzheimer’s is the most common form of the disease. There are four different gene mutations that lead to Alzheimer’s. Rare forms of this disease are extremely genetic and very aggressive. However, it is age – not genetics – that is the biggest predictor for developing late onset Alzheimer’s Disease. By the time a person is 82 years old, their chance of developing late onset Alzheimer’s increases by 50 percent.
Your genetics is not a predictor that you will acquire late onset Alzheimer’s Disease. For example, the population of Nigeria in West Africa has the highest prevalence of the gene for late onset Alzheimer’s Disease, yet, they experience the lowest prevalence of the development of the condition. Lifestyle can play a vital role in preventing this type of Alzheimer’s.
So, what can you do specifically to ward off this disease? There are ten healthy lifestyle habits that you can adapt.
1. Use your brain!
We see a decrease in the development of late onset Alzheimer’s among people who have engaged in challenging cognitive tasks throughout their lives. It sounds weird, but the brain is lazy. It is the only organ that is aware of its existence. We must push it to work harder. To keep your brain active, learn new cognitive skills that create new neuronal networks in the brain such as learning a new language or learning to play a musical instrument.|
2. Be happy!
Mood and social interaction play a role in the development of Alzheimer’s conditions. Low dopamine and serotonin levels can increase your chances of developing dementia. People are meant to be around other people. Boost your mood by being an active part of your community and seeking out opportunities for social interaction.
When we sleep, the neurons of the brain are “swept clean” by microglia. That is why we feel alert and refreshed after a good night’s sleep. Getting at least seven hours of sleep each night is highly recommended.
4. Quit Smoking!
Smoking greatly increases the risk of developing dementia.
Physical exercise increases the release of neurotransmitters in the brain that are vital to cognitive function, mood, and memory. Physical exercise can also contribute to overall health.
6. Eat a Mediterranean Diet!
By far, the Mediterranean diet has been proven to be most beneficial for cognitive health. A Mediterranean diet is typically high in vegetables, fruits, whole grains, beans, nuts, seeds, and olive oil.
7. Eat Dinner Early!
Avoid eating large meals less than 4 or 5 hours before nighttime sleep. The brain requires time to digest fats and lipids after eating.
8. Be Social!
The brain is designed to be entertained and stimulated. Social interactions help stimulate many areas of the brain increasing many areas of cognition.
9. Maintain a healthy weight!
Those who are overweight have an increased chance for several chronic diseases such as diabetes and congestive heart failure as well as dementia(s).
10. Drink in moderation!
The Mediterranean diet mentions red wine. White wines contain more sugar that requires the brain to break down and digest. Red wine in moderation is good for the heart and the brain.
These ten lifestyle habits have been proven to help in the prevention of dementia. I like to believe that our first survivor of Alzheimer’s is living today. However, I also believe that our best chance of beating this disease is through prevention.
Dementia is an epidemic. As we become a healthier culture, it is my hope that we will see a drastic reduction in the development of this disease. For more information, I invite you to explore the Spectramed® website. If you are a caregiver of someone affected by dementia, we offer many resources for you including a new, online training course that can help you provide the best quality of life for yourself and your loved one.
Dr. David T. Hutchings specializes in geriatric neuropathology and Dementia. He practices as the Chief Operations Officer for Spectramed® overseeing the company’s operational performance and clinical quality. Previously, he practiced as the Chief Executive Officer for Stonerise Therapy. Dr. Hutchings is also the founder of Dementia and Alzheimer’s Care, LLC, a private practice firm focused on the evaluation, treatment and clinical education of all forms of dementia.
In 2018, Dr. Hutchings completed a two-year fellowship with the Aspen Institute which is focused on improving health care globally through policy and practice. The Health Innovators Fellows are an elite group comprised of the top medical practitioners internationally who work to improve healthcare and healthcare delivery.
As a family owned company, Spectramed’s® mission is to lead the way in the advancement of medical and rehabilitation tools and education to restore function to the highest level possible.
The Guardian Way® is a clinical collection of education, support, and products for dysphagia management. Spectramed’s® protocols utilize neuromuscular electrical stimulation (NMES) and surface electromyography (sEMG) paired with swallowing to individualize treatment for patients across the lifespan.
Virtual live interactive training courses for practitioners and caregivers are available on the website.
This article was written for informational purposes only. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.