September is World Alzheimer’s Month, and we have learnt a lot about this debilitating disease in the last few years. Here’s what we know exactly.
Alzheimer’s disease is still somewhat of a mystery, but researchers are working hard to find answers and a cure for this highly damaging condition. Around the world, an estimated 36 million people suffer from Alzheimer’s disease, a number predicted to triple by 2050 as the population ages and people live longer. The risk of getting it increase with age, especially after 65.
Alzheimer’s is the number one form of dementia. According to WHO, dementia is a “syndrome characterized by disturbance of multiple brain functions, including memory, thinking, orientation, comprehension, calculation, learning capacity, language, and judgement.”
What can I do about it?
Alzheimer’s Disease International recently published a new report – Dementia and Risk Reduction: An analysis of protective and modifiable factors – examining the proven risk factors of this disease and stating the best behaviour to adopt in order to lower your risk.
Contrary to popular belief, dementia doesn’t usually run in the family. True, there are some cases in which Alzheimer’s disease has appeared in several generations, which shows that it can sometimes be inherited – this is mostly the case for people who develop it quite young (before 50).
Here are the typical symptoms of dementia. Please note that you should always consult a medical professional, and not diagnose yourself.
- Regularly forgetting recent events, appointments, names and faces
- Regularly misplacing items
- Problems finding the right words
- Confusion about time of day
- Mood or behaviour problems, lack of confidence
- Disorientation, especially away for familiar places and getting lost
- Reduced judgement, such as sense of danger
In the last few years, we have discovered ways to help avoid dementia by exercising and leading a healthy life. In many cases, regular physical activity can help reduce the risk of dementia by 50%.
Also, it seems that being active and having lots of interests or hobbies is very beneficial. The Alzheimer’s Society has a few tips to help reduce the risks.
There are also treatments to slow down Alzheimer’s, but nothing yet on how to interrupt or reverse the process.
Training your brain
If if are mentally very active, you have a better chance of maintaining your cognitive and thinking skills. Training your brain can support the growth of nerve cells and increase communication between brain cells, which in turn will reduce mental decline.
You’re never too old to learn, and if you want to help reduce your risk of developing dementia, you should start new routines when you hit 40. Don’t think of it as something else to add to your schedule, but try to find things you enjoy doing. The possibilities are endless:
- Find a hobby: start painting, carpentry, pottery or knitting for instance.
- Play board games and do crosswords.
- Start keeping a journal or writing a book, and read different things.
- Do new things: try a new cooking recipe every week, meet new people, join a club or do volunteer work.
- Always wanted to play an instrument or learn a new language? Now is the time!
And let’s face it, half of these don’t even require spare time, which means you don’t have to wait to be retired.
Here’s a list of possible brain games to do online. Diversity is the key. And remember: brain exercise is the most painless type of exercise there is!