Delaying the onset of Dementia? Apparently you can…

Delaying the onset of Dementia? Apparently you can…

 

Have you ever felt you were going crazy as you couldn’t for the life of you remember where you left your keys? Or remember your phone number when you were asked for it? Or simply forget to pick up your kids from school even though you do it every day? Don’t worry, that early onset dementia that you joke about having is most likely not going to hit for a while, however when it does, I am sure you will wish you did something sooner to help prolong it from happening for it is now proven you can.

Presently over 850,000 people in the UK are living with symptoms of dementia and that number increases every day. Dementia is not a disease you can simply cure, well not yet at least, however there have been many studies done that show that there are certain ways to help prolong the emergence of these symptoms.

 

What is Dementia?

From what we know presently within the brain when there are symptoms of dementia, certain proteins called tau-proteins and amyloid plaque proteins clump together to create formations called tangles (which happens to be the main indicator for Alzheimer’s Disease). These tangles through cascading signals ultimately interfere with the brains memory processing thus leading us to simply forget and ‘cloud’ our mind.

Symptoms of dementia are majority seen in people over 65 years old, as this is the time within ageing that these tangles begin to form (there is no proven knowledge as to why this happens at this time in our lives just yet) however with the cause of these tangles still under scrutiny, there has been an increased amount of research in how to postpone these symptoms. Through this research, changes in physical lifestyle such as adding exercise as well as varying internal chemical composition including increasing folic acid intake have been noted to help in prolonging dementia. It has been proven that exercising your brain is just as or even more important than exercising your body and to be truly ‘fit’ for life, both parts need to be trained.

 

Lifestyle

When it comes to exercising your brain, lifestyle changes have been one of the most researched topics to date and for good reason. It has been shown in a variety of research that an increase in aerobic activity, where you are feeding the brain more oxygen, has led to an increase in the factors that influence neuron growth (the memory and brain cells).

In addition to exercising, other simple brain activities such as puzzles or crosswords has also shown promise in strengthening neuron connectivity. A more recent influence has been the inclusion of computer based activity as an aid in cognitive stimulation but more research is needed to truly see the benefits of this.

Another area of interest that has been considered when assessing possible influences and effectors in onset of dementia is that of socialisation. As human beings, we require social interaction as a form of brain stimulation. When there is a lack in this stimulation, it has been shown there is a faster decline in cognition as well as there being a 2.1 times higher chance to develop diseases such as Alzheimer’s. Whether this is due to the ability to socialising being somehow effected by neuronal circuits or that loneliness is a ‘symptom’ of cognitive decline, further research is needed to confirm such ideals.

 

Chemical Contributors

Alongside the more physical lifestyle contributors of brain health, chemical lifestyle contributors such as vitamins and alcohol have had an interesting impact on contributing research. Vitamins such as B6, B12 which usually contribute to blood health have been tested in varying levels with no significant conclusion yet. Contrastingly, folic acid which also influences blood health and iron levels potentially been shown to have a protective role in inhibiting amyloid plaques.

Now for us wine drinkers, there has been conclusive evidence put forward that a higher intake of red wine (8 or more drinks per week) can lead to a potential increased risk of dementia and cognitive decline. However, contrastingly low to moderate intake of wine (up to 7 drinks a week) can possibly protect against dementia and neurodegeneration due to antioxidant properties aiding in neuronal oxidation.

 

Moving Forward

As you can see, varying influences have been and continue to be tried and tested to see how we can truly effect our own neurodegeneration. A third of us in our lifetime will develop some form of dementia, with contributing factors such as genetics and now our lifestyle choices being an increased risk. As research continues to grow on the subject, further evidence will become apparent on how we need to look after ourselves now, to postpone the effects of dementia in the future. However, on the contrary, we need to reassure ourselves that those brain lapses that happen every now and then are completely normal but that new swim class you want to take during the week or those few less glasses a week of wine could possibly be the difference we need later on in life, how strange!

 

Gioia Zitzlaff
Coyne Medical Team