While we currently don’t have a way to cure or stop the progression of dementia, there are some steps you can take to lower your risk of progressive dementia.
Many of our patients at the Shankle Clinic in Newport Beach, CA, come in for an evaluation after they start to experience memory loss or personality changes. By then, you’ve missed your window of opportunity to prevent dementia. That’s why it’s important to stay proactive and book an appointment with Dr. William Shankle and his nurse practitioners Miki Ohata and Flordelin Palomino early.
Basics about the four progressive dementias
The changes in your brain that cause dementia begin at least a decade before you experience symptoms. Once those changes start, they get progressively worse, slowly destroying more nerve cells in your brain and making your symptoms worse.
By the time you have worrisome memory loss, it’s too late to reverse the existing changes or prevent future changes from developing. If you want to lower your risk for dementia, it’s essential to make lifestyle changes as early as possible.
These are the four progressive dementias:
Alzheimer’s disease develops when small pieces of proteins accumulate. Clusters of beta amyloid protein gather outside nerve cells, while tau proteins form tangles inside the nerves.
Lewy body dementia
This progressive dementia is caused by a buildup of proteins called Lewy bodies. Memory loss is one of the earliest signs of Lewy body dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
Frontotemporal dementia is also caused by proteins collecting in the brain. The difference in this dementia is that it first affects personality, behavior, and language, with memory loss developing in later stages.
Vascular dementia causes similar symptoms as the other dementias and it’s also progressive, but it develops when a stroke or vascular disease cuts off blood flow to your brain.
How you can guard against dementia
A group of experts at the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine reviewed the existing studies and reported that there are three changes you can make that may help prevent Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias (ADRD), which includes all four primary progressive dementias:
Increase your physical activity
Aerobic exercise is great for your brain, but the secret is to engage in a regular regimen. Regular aerobic exercise boosts the area of your brain responsible for verbal memory and learning. It also stimulates the release of chemicals in your brain that maintain healthy brain cells.
If you don’t already exercise, consult with us before jumping into a new activity. It’s important to be sure you’re healthy, and we can recommend exercises that are safe if you have an underlying health condition.
Control your blood pressure
It’s essential to keep your blood pressure within the normal range for the sake of your cardiovascular system and to prevent vascular dementia. High blood pressure damages the arteries, leading to cholesterol plaques that block blood flow.
Lowering your salt intake, eating foods that are rich in potassium, exercising, and losing weight can prevent high blood pressure from developing or lower it if you already have hypertension. If lifestyle changes don’t help, we can prescribe anti-hypertensive medications.
Thinking activities like problem-solving and exercises to improve your memory can help prevent ADRDs. Studies found that brain training, especially speed-of-processing, where you quickly identify and recall an object, reduced the risk of dementia by 29% over 10 years.
Follow a MIND diet
Eating a healthy diet that’s rich in vegetables, berries, nuts, fish, beans, and limited amounts of lean meat and dairy may slow down brain aging by at least seven years.
If you have any questions about steps you can take to prevent ADRDs, call the Shankle Clinic or book an appointment online.