July 8th, 2022
One of the most unfortunate afflictions of old age is Alzheimer’s Disease, a form of advanced dementia that affects approximately 1 in 9 people over the age of 65. While certainly a scary topic, having a clear understanding of what it is (and isn’t), how to prevent it, and when necessary, how to treat it will help ensure the best possible outcomes.
“We fear what we do not understand and that often leads to avoiding conversations about this particular topic”, states Dr. Raymond Suarez, Medical Director of the St. Joseph Hospital Senior Behavioral Health Unit (SBHU). “And while there are no ‘cures’ for cognitive decline, early intervention can lead to improved outcomes including slowing down the progression of the illness.”
If Alzheimer’s/Dementia runs in your family, or if you have concerns about yourself or a love one, below are 4 ways you can improve your chances of preventing or at least slowing down the disease.
Eating well reduces the risk of diabetes, heart disease, and stroke. High blood pressure often leads to vascular damage, a common observation in dementia patients. Seniors should avoid excesses of the following:
Many health professionals recommend a diet regimen known as the Mediterranean diet, which includes the following:
At St. Joseph Hospital, our providers often recommend 30 minutes of moderately vigorous aerobic exercise, three to four days per week for adults. Depending on your current level of fitness or physical limitations, these activities could involve:
Seniors are at a high risk for developing depression, especially if they suffer from grief, loneliness, or isolation. Our providers recommend building a support network, which may include:
According to Dr. Suarez, “Psychological stress, anxiety, and depression can lead to a ‘pseudodementia’ or ‘false dementia’. When somebody is extremely stressed, anxious, or depressed, their cognitive ability can decline, but this is reversible when the underlying cause is treatable.”
One of the early warning signs of dementia is frequent and/or severe memory loss, such as not being able to remember how to drive a car or recall names of relatives. Stimulating the brain can keep an individual’s cognitive abilities from decline. Some examples of good brain exercises for seniors are:
Dementia/Alzheimer’s Disease is a topic that people prefer to not speak about. However, by having an open and honest conversation with your healthcare provider early on, they can do a quick and easy screening for cognitive decline. If cognitive decline is found, there are medications that can be started as early as possible. These medications cannot reverse any damage, however, they can lead to a decrease in the progression so it is important to start them as early as possible.
At St. Joseph Hospital, we understand the difficulties of aging and senior care, and we are here to offer you support. For more information on our Services and Care for Older Adults, click here.