Can anyone predict dementia? One of the biggest fears facing baby boomers and the X-generation is the fear of getting dementia. Millions of family caregivers are caring for someone with dementia. In fact, approximately 43.5 million caregivers have provided unpaid care to an adult or child in the last 12 months. [National Alliance for Caregiving and AARP. (2015). Caregiving in the U.S.]
- The job is long, hard and often not appreciated. 24% of caregivers provide care for more than 5 years.
- 15% of caregivers provide care for 10 or more years. Higher-hour caregivers are twice as likely to have been in their caregiving role for 10 years or more. [National Alliance for Caregiving and AARP. (2015). Caregiving in the U.S.]
Family Caregivers Are At Risk
Add to this the fact that statistics show family caregivers are 6 times more likely to suffer from dementia after their caregiving duties are over. It is no wonder that a lot of people are concerned about this. Millions of people worldwide suffer from Mild Cognitive Dysfunction (MCI) MCI is often a precursor to dementia.
Dementia is best described as the loss of cognitive function. And the most common type of dementia is Alzheimer’s Disease. Discovering the disease in the early stages may help patients to retain more of their abilities for a longer period of time. But there has not been a sure fire way to predict dementia at this time. Furthermore, there is no cure. But some medications, lifestyle changes, and therapies may help to push back the clock.
Why This Is So Important
And pushing back the clock can save you plenty. Financially, the longer you are able to live more independently the better it will be on your pocketbook. It can also save wear and tear on the family caregiver. And this could help them to stay healthier longer. Dementia symptoms can last as long as 20-25 years. What if you could stay independent for 15, 20 or more of those years? What would that mean to you and your family?
It is not surprising that the ability to predict dementia is a high priority for researchers. A team led by Dr. Berislav V. Zlokovic at the University of Southern California, Los Angeles, looked for earlier biomarkers of cognitive decline. They examined two markers involved in the breakdown of the blood-brain barrier. This barrier controls the movement of cells and molecules between the blood and the fluid that surrounds the brain’s nerve cells. And since previous studies showed that abnormalities in the small blood vessels (capillaries) of the brain often contribute to dementia the res4earchers were eager to see the results.
160 people with and without cognitive impairment were enrolled in the trial. Using an MRI-based technique researcher tracked the integrity of the blood-brain barrier in 73 participants. The study was supported in part by NIH’s National Institute on Aging (NIA) and National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS). Results were published online on January 14, 2018, in Nature Medicine.
The researchers found that participants with cognitive impairment had higher levels of soluble PDGFRβ and a greater breakdown in the blood-brain barrier of certain brain regions. This may indicate the ability to predict dementia way before symptoms begin. Though more testing does need to be performed the findings could pave the way for an early diagnostic test for cognitive impairment.
What Can You Do Today If You are Worried about Dementia?
Actually, there is a lot you can do. Ongoing research has identified a list of changes you can make to your lifestyle that may help prevent or delay dementia. The following are a few suggestions.
Eat a Heart-Healthy Diet
Study after study shows that what is good for the heart is also good for the brain. A colorful diet filled with fruits and vegetables, whole grains and fish could help both your heart and your brain.
Avoid brain injury.
I know you didn’t wear helmets when you were growing up. But do you really want to take that chance? Wear a helmet when playing contact sports or riding a bike, motorcycle, skateboard or roller skating. Admit that the time may have come to let someone younger climb onto your roof to clean the gutters. A fall is just not worth the money saved by doing it yourself. Use a seatbelt and do your best to prevent falls.
Get Quality Sleep
But avoid sleep medications that have been associated with increased dementia risk. Discover tips on natural ways to get a good nights sleep.
Maintain Good Cardiovascular health.
Manage your blood pressure, avoid obesity and diabetes. That means a good diet, exercise and practicing stress management techniques.
Studies have shown that quitting smoking can reduce the risk of dementia to the same as those who have not smoked. It’s not too late to quit! You may want to try hypnosis. It has been shown to help many people quit smoking without side effects.
Incorporate Cardiovascular exercise into your daily routine. High intensity walking, running, dancing or swimming, increases blood flow to the brain and raises your heart rate. And that is a good thing!
You have to make the effort to stay connected to other people. Studies show that people with stronger social connection stay healthier longer. So join groups, volunteer and stay active.
Continue to Learn
Taking a class at the local college can help to keep your brain sharp. Lone Star College has an Academy for Lifelong Learning program with hundreds of courses to choose from. The great news is you will probably make some new friends in your class.
Furthermore, if you are caring for someone with dementia you must take time for you. Do not continue this cycle of dementia. Studies have shown that family caregivers have a much higher risk of developing dementia than their peers who are not caregivers. Contact someone at Sycamore Creek Ranch to see how we can help. Learn about our Resident Centered Care and how it can help your loved one.