Over five million people in the United States suffer from Alzheimer’s disease. That does not include all of the people who suffer from other cognitive disorders. The estimate is that this figure will triple in the next ten to fifteen years. That’s a good reason to start working on it now.
What Causes Dementia?
Genetics: If your parents and/or grandparents had dementia, chances are good that you will as well. In fact, scientists believe they have isolated a gene that can cause Alzheimer’s disease.
Head Injuries: There is a link between head injuries and dementia. It’s not known whether this includes everyone who has a head injury, specific people or the number/severity of the injury.
PTSD: A preliminary study has linked post traumatic stress syndrome to dementia. The current hypothesis is the stress part. More studies are being done to either establish or refute this possible link.
What Can We Do?
This section isn’t about what the medical and/or research community can do. This is what *we* can do to protect ourselves and our children.
Gene Testing: Knowing that you carry the Alzheimer’s gene gives you advance warning and may help put it off. Some schools are considering having genetic testing part of a student’s pre-sports checkup.
ImPACT Test: ImPACT (Immediate Post-Concussion Assessment and Cognitive Testing) can help determine whether or not it’s safe for an athlete of any age to return to play after a concussion. This is another test some schools may insist on before a student can take part in any sport. This can help prevent dementia caused by a head injury.
Puzzles: That’s correct; certain puzzles can help maintain cognitive function. While crossword puzzles shouldn’t be ruled out, the more complex puzzles are better. Cryptograms, Sudoku and strategy puzzles work well.
Reduce Stress: Whether it’s from a traumatic incident or the daily grind at work, stress reduction could help stave off dementia. It may also stave off other problems, such as heart attacks.
Social Interaction: Being around others and taking part in social activities is important. Conversations stimulate more than one area of the brain, which is good for cognitive function.
Video Games: Believe it or not, strategy games…games that make you think…are good for the memory. Like the puzzles, they stimulate different areas of the brain as you take in the action on the screen and then react to it.
We don’t have to accept dementia as inevitable. We don’t have to wait for science to come up with a wonder drug to prevent it. We can take the initiative and protect our own brains.