Education and Good Health Help Prevent Dementia

Drawing by Elizabeth Wagele

Drawing by Elizabeth Wagele

Doctors are beginning to take patients’ memory loss complaints more seriously. When patients note a decline in their memory and thinking skills, it’s called ”subjective cognitive decline.” Some of these complaints do not develop into dementia because of psychological angst—perhaps family members have had dementia, causing some to worry they have it when they don’t. But sometimes the person who complains is onto something; the advantage to subjective screening is that it helps pinpoint people at risk to determine if treatments can delay or prevent Alzheimer’s.

Doctors hope to devise a test that identifies which subjective concerns are potentially worrisome, since not all are. The experts don’t recommend a scan to see if there are amyloids in the brain for these people, however, because nothing can be done about it.

These normal memory changes go with aging:

·      Forgetting why you entered a room.

·      Having trouble retrieve names of unfamiliar people.

·      Change in memory compared with young adulthood.

·      Memory changes similar to others the same age.

These changes are not a normal part of aging:

      •     Getting lost in familiar surroundings.

      •     Trouble remembering important details of recent events.

      •      Having difficulty following the plot of a TV program or book because of memory.

      •      Memory problems worse than others of the same age.

The information above was based on The New York Times article, July 18 2013, “Dementia’s Signs May Come Early” by Pam Belluck.

In another New York Times article, “Dementia Rate Is Found to Drop Sharpy With Better Health and Education” July 17, 2013, by Gina Kolata,  dementia rates were reported to drop by 25% in the last two decades in England and Wales. A Danish study showed similar results. Better health and education are thought to be responsible for these results. Experts expect this to also be true in the United States.

This news is important because recently many have thought a rapid rise in people with dementia would cost so much, it would be difficult to support financially. But more and more people are controlling their blood pressure and cholesterol. Now it looks like dementia rates will fall as the population becomes healthier and better educated.

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