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Five Ways to Delay Dementia

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dementia and care management (2)It used to be that people feared public speaking more than dying, but with the increasing prevalence of a number dementia, it seems that people more fear losing their faculties than fear losing their lives. But while prevalent, dementia is not inevitable, and there are steps we all can take – at any age – to stave off cognitive decline. Here are five.
1. Go fishing – You probably have heard or read that fish oil is healthy for your brain, and a number of studies have supported that notion. The antioxidative omega-3 fatty acids in fish oil seem to be an aid to later life brain health. Researchers have quantified this beneficial effect in clinical studies comparing people who consume omega-3 with those who do not, so eat fish.
2. Sound sleep – The estimates of sleep apnea’s prevalence range from 25 to 40+ million adults in the United States alone. The most common and obvious product of this nightly disturbance of sleep is the excessive daytime sleepiness that results, a sleepiness that over time not only reduces quality of life, but if unchecked, it also impairs memory as well as general motor coordination, ability to concentrate and a number of other facets of cognitive function. So if you know someone who has sleep apnea, get help.
3. Sleep aids – A good night’s sleep is precious, but using a prescription sleep aid may be a mixed blessing. There is evidence that some of the prescription solutions for sleeplessness cause selective amnesia or even hallucinations or sleep activity. People on some of these agents have reportedly engaged in sleep driving, making telephone calls or even preparing and eating food with no recall of the events. The cure for sleeplessness can be worse than the condition.
4. Night caps – It is true that alcohol can make one drowsy, but it does not enhance the quality of sleep. Researchers have shown that alcohol disrupts the formation of memories in the brain. It may not be dementia, strictly speaking, but recurring memory lapses can make day to day functioning a bit shaky.
5. Single Tasking – Multi-tasking may be the hallmark of the 21st century, but far from making us more productive, it actually hinders cognitive productivity. One researcher refers to this as the :dementia of distraction,” the kind where you walk into a room while checking your phone for a text, but then forget why you entered the room. This dementia knows no age requirements, because teenagers can be as prone to the distraction of multi-tasking as older adults.
As you may imagine, the list could actually go on and on, but the dos and don’ts of this short review highlight what to embrace and what to avoid to enhance cognitive function at almost any age, but particularly as one ages. Can one avoid dementia entirely? Probably not, as there is some research pointing to a genetic component to conditions like Alzheimer’s Disease, but following these basic guidelines can preserve brain function to the fullest extent possible. So sleep well, eat healthy and stay focused.
Charlotte Bishop is a Geriatric Care Manager and founder of Creative Care Management, certified professionals who are geriatric advocates, resources, counselors and friends to older adults and their families in metropolitan Chicago. Please email your questions to info@creativecaremanagement.com.

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