Little Things Mean a Lot: Things One Can Do to Prevent or Delay Dementia

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When large numbers of people and money are involved, distribution makes a huge impact. Take Bill Gates’s money as an example. If Bill Gates equally distributed his money to each person on earth, each individual would only get about ten dollars. In some places, ten dollars is more than the person makes in an entire month, but in the developed world, Bill’s beneficence would cause a shrug and a half-hearted “Thanks, Bill.” Most of us would probably prefer that he keep distributing his charity in ways that make more impact, such as when he wiped out polio on the subcontinent of India in recent years. We’ll happily bypass two extra Starbucks for those kinds of outcomes.

If Bill Gates equally distributed his money to each person on earth, each individual would only get about ten dollars.

 When it comes to dementia, which is sweeping the world, distribution also may have vast consequences and implications. The World Alzheimer’s Report 2015 noted that 46 million people already have dementia. It projected that 75 million people will have dementia by 2030 and 130 million by 2050, with the number doubling every 20 years. This number of cases of dementia multiplying so fast and dramatically is having and will have a huge impact on the quality of life of sufferers and caregivers alike. Dementia also strains healthcare systems financially and institutionally. Its public and personal toll is wide and deep.

Researchers Brodaty, Sachdev, and Anderson, while calling for hope, noted that if dementia onset could only be delayed by five years, its prevalence could be cut almost in half, to 44%. Even delaying general onset by six months would result in a 6% reduction in its presence in the population. Since we are speaking of a worldwide disease that affects millions, even a 6% reduction in prevalence would make a huge difference in the toll that dementia exacts.

If we could delay dementia’s onset by five years, its prevalence could be cut almost in half, to 44%. Even delaying general onset by six months would result in a 6% reduction in its presence in the population.

 Brodaty notes that the onset of at least one form of dementia, vascular dementia, may be delayed by working to prevent strokes. Focusing on risk factors for stroke, such as high cholesterol, smoking, hypertension and controlling diabetes, for example, not only prevents stroke, but helps prevent vascular dementia (hypertension is also a risk factor for Alzheimer’s). Physical activity and intellectual stimulation may also delay onset of Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia. Certain drugs may also prevent or slow onset.

Focusing on risk factors for stroke, such as high cholesterol, smoking, hypertension and controlling diabetes, for example, not only prevents stroke, but helps prevent vascular dementia (hypertension is also a risk factor for Alzheimer’s).

 Brodaty warns that rushing to implement such preventive measures hasn’t performed as well in reality as in theory. He says most people start too late. Cultivation of brain and vascular health should begin by midlife at the latest, and preferably much earlier—during school age years, he says.

Since little things mean a lot, individually and to society, it behooves everyone to exercise, engage in mental stimulation, lower cholesterol intake, and stop or never start smoking, from as early an age as possible. This shows how each person can make a big difference in controlling the devastating toll dementia takes in our world.

 

 

Sources

Brodaty, H., Sachdev, P., Anderson, T.M. (2005). Dementia: new projections and time for an updated response. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry, 39:955–958. Available online at http://gavandloz.pbworks.com/f/Dementia_new%2520projections.pdf.

Price, Martin & Anders, Wimo & Guerchet, Maelenn & Ali, Gemma-Claire & Wu, Yu-Tzu & Prina, Matthew & Alzheimer’s Disease Internationa (August 2015). The World Alzheimer’s Report 2015. Alzheimer’s Disease International. Available online at

http://www.worldalzreport2015.org/downloads/world-alzheimer-report-2015.pdf.

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