It’s a known fact that as we get older, we begin to slow down. The same thing happens in our brains too. There are many diseases that can develop as we get older. The one that is commonly known to most people is dementia. There are different types of Dementia, the most common one which most people are aware of is Alzheimer’s disease; this is responsible for 50-75% of dementia diagnoses. The second most common is Vascular Dementia – 20-30% of people are diagnosed with Vascular Dementia. Frontotemporal dementia accounts for 5-10% of all dementia. Parkinson’s disease and Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) are all also linked to dementia too. Parkinson’s disease is caused by a loss of nerve cells in part of the brain called the substantia nigra, leading to a reduction in dopamine in the brain. This chemical regulates the movement of our bodies, therefore a reduction in dopamine is responsible for symptoms of the disease. The three main symptoms of Parkinson’s disease are involuntary shaking of body parts, slow movement and stiff and inflexible muscles. A person who has Parkinson’s disease can also experience other physical and psychological symptoms like depression, anxiety, balance problems, loss of smell, problems sleeping and memory problems. Although Alzheimer’s is the most common form of dementia, medical experts still do not yet know how it is caused. All they know is how to try and slow it down as well as how it progresses, with it all beginning with memory loss.
Vascular dementia is also known as vascular cognitive impairment which is caused when small vessels in the brain begin to be blocked or become diseased, depriving brain cells of needed oxygen and glucose. The strongest risk factors for vascular dementia are controllable like high blood pressure, smoking, high cholesterol and high triglyceride levels. There are ways of reducing the risk of dementia.
It is commonly known that exercise is very good for us and should be incorporated into our everyday life in order to improve and maintain energy levels and good wellbeing. One thing it is good for is preventing dementia. In a study that was conducted at the cooper institute, researchers discovered that people who are fit at midlife have a lower risk of developing Alzheimer’s and other type of dementia. The study involved 19,459 participants with an average follow-up of 24 years. It was found that 1,659 developed dementia. Researchers saw a 36% decrease in dementia development in the most fit vs lowest fit participants.
It is suggested that everyone does at least 150 minutes cardiovascular/ aerobic exercise (this does not have to be done all at once, it is advised that it is spread across the period of the week in a way that suits you), strength training and flexibility per week.
Protecting your hearing can also help you in preventing getting dementia. It is advised to turn down the volume slightly, walk away from noise and to wear ear protection when necessary. There are many theories as to why bad hearing is connected to dementia. These include:
- Cognitive load – listening to garbled messages requires more brain power and requires memory and thinking along side.
- Brain atrophy – having impaired hearing making the brain wastes away part of the brain that handles hearing and in turn my also affect other areas of the brain.
- Social isolation – reduces engagement and social interaction with others, therefore staying at the side as it is hard to hear others therefore making conversations more difficult.
If someone suffers from dementia, it will mean they will focus on sleep more. It has been proven from research that having both too little sleep and too much sleep can negatively impact our health. The national sleep foundation recommends adults aged 26-64 years of age to have between 7 and 9 hours of sleep and adults ages 65 and older to have between 7 and 8 hours. Sleep requirements differ across our lifespan and between people. The recommendations that come from the sleep foundation are aimed at those who are healthy and do suffer from a sleep disorder such an insomnia.
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