Can We Modify the Risk Factors for Developing Dementia?

Posted on June 11, 2015 by Anne Ellett

This is good news!  More studies are showing that there are interventions that can decrease cognitive decline.  A recent randomized controlled study out of Finland, published in the medical journal Lancet, March 11, 2015 notes that up to one-third of Alzheimer disease cases may be attributed to modifiable risk factors. 

You may ask…What are modifiable risk factors? Research is showing that lifestyle choices such as lack of exercise, diets high in animal fat, smoking, excessive alcohol, lack of cognitive stimulation can separately, or together, increase your risk of developing Alzheimer’s or other dementias.  These factors are modifiable because they are within our ability to change them.  You have the power!

In Finland, over 1200 patients, ages 60-77, who were at risk for developing dementia, were divided into two groups: the control group received general health advice and the other intervention group received focused counseling sessions regarding diet, cognitive training, exercise and monitoring for vascular factors such as hypertension.

The intervention group improved 25% more than those in the control group on scores on neuropsychological tests and those patients in the control group were at significantly greater risk for overall cognitive decline after two years in the study.

This month, let’s make a choice to assess our own lifestyle habits that may be increasing our risk for developing dementia.  We have a choice, we can make a difference in how we help our brains stay healthy!

•  What is the frequency of you participating in aerobic exercise? 5-6 days a week is recommended – choose something you like!
•  Do you have a diet high in saturated animal fats? Let’s eat more quinoa and fish and less red meat!
•  What’s the frequency of cognitive stimulation? Are you challenging yourself? Are you learning new skills, taking a new class, learning a new language?  Especially if you are retired or working part-time, you have the time to learn a new skill!
•  Do you have regular checkups with your primary care provider? If you have hypertension or diabetes, are they in good control?

This is exciting! It is great to know that are multiple things we can be doing to help our brain age in a healthy way while minimizing cognitive decline…..I’m making stuffed bell peppers with quinoa tonight for dinner :-), what are you having for dinner?

Posted in Alzheimers, dementia, risk factors