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Explained: The best way to tackle dementia

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Explained: The best way to tackle dementia

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Whilst being physically fit and having a naturally balanced and healthy diet are deterrents to many ailments, there are several actions that individuals can take to avoid the onset of dementia altogether.

Explained: The best way to tackle dementia
Prevention is always better than cure is the adage that our parents and grandparents have successfully ingrained within us over the past decades. While the perfect panacea may rarely be attainable, preventing dementia is the only way of tackling it.
Dementia can negatively impact the way brain cells communicate with each other, thereby rendering an individual’s thinking and behavioural capabilities in turmoil. The brain has specific regions responsible for carrying out different functions like memory, judgment, and body movement. If anyone region gets damaged, then it cannot only carry out functions properly, but it can also affect the regions around it.
A typical example of this is Alzheimer’s disease, where an increase in the number of specific proteins both within and outside the brain cells renders them incapable of communicating with each other appropriately. As a result, the hippocampus (the region responsible for learning and memory) gets damaged, resulting in memory loss, an early symptom of Alzheimer’s. As damaged brain cells are often irrecoverable, it is considered best that some measures can be taken to prevent the disease in the first instance.
Why is prevention the best way to tackle dementia?
Ms. Smith has started to notice certain incongruencies in her husband’s behaviour over the past few weeks. He has been alarmingly withdrawn from day-to-activities and is often irked when he learns that a few people are coming over. He sometimes struggles to remember the person calling him on the phone, even though he only gets calls from known numbers. He has even exhibited social anxiety, something that has only been increasing over the past few weeks. While Ms. Smith might be concerned about calling a doctor and seeking help, the truth is that this is cognitive damage caused by Alzheimer’s. The fact that there is no cure for dementia is reason enough for us to focus on preventing it in the first place.
However, that does not mean that finding a way around this disease is entirely beyond our control. On the contrary, if the slow decline of cognitive abilities cannot be stopped, it can at least be stabilised at a point where it is entirely manageable.
Patients who have dementia feel the need to interact socially with others and have a desire to communicate their feelings. While memory impairments can often lead to instances where the patient suffers from instant forgetfulness, some ways can still cement the information within the minds of people suffering from dementia.
A prominent method is using graphical tools to present the information in addition to verbally doing it. This helps in the deployment of spare functions of the patient (including reading and recognition). These tools can include memory wallets or memory books. Additionally, calendars, schedules or simple written-out cards/paper notes can also be used. If they are strategically placed to ease retrieval, the patient is more likely to be reminded of the things they can forget. Several other methods can be employed to deal with patients suffering from the disease.
How can dementia be prevented?
Whilst being physically fit and having a naturally balanced and healthy diet are deterrents to many ailments, there are several actions that individuals can take to avoid the onset of dementia altogether.
No smoking
Not only does it increase the chances of developing dementia, but it also impacts the individual’s likelihood of contracting other conditions like stroke, lung cancer, and even diabetes. In addition, the damage to the lungs and bloodstreams is also evident. If the patient has a regular smoking habit, he is advised to either quit it cold-turkey or get on a quit-smoking program.
Reducing alcohol consumption
Consuming everything in access poses a danger to your life and alcohol is no exception. Besides destroying your brain cells, consumption of alcohol in larger quantities can harm your liver and other significant parts of your body. But if you are an alcohol lover and find it hard to stay away from it, just don’t drink more than 14 units per week. It will allow you to satisfy your taste buds and won’t put much pressure on your brain cells.
Clinical trials
Clinical trials are a great way to understand first-age problems like Dementia and tackle its effects over time. Such trials help the patients, families and the group of people running the programs understand the deep secrets of a particular disease and monitor the prescribed solutions addressed to deal with its symptoms.
One of the notable trials for Dementia is PROTECT, which is run between the University of Exeter and King’s College, London. With 25,0000 patients aged 50 and above, PROTECT houses a highly sensitive and authentic neuropsychology test battery, which can be completed remotely and offers validated health and lifestyle questionnaires and DNA sampling. This well-characterised study is equipped with cognitive tests data that allows for the identification of individuals with pre-clinical cognitive deficits.
Dementia is a dangerous disease and shouldn’t be taken lightly. Till the time our doctors come up with an ideal solution to deal with Dementia, it’s better to stick to the above preventive guide and follow it to its core to keep this disease at bay for as long as possible.
—Lisa Roberts is Vice-Chancellor and Chief Executive Professor, University of Exeter. The views expressed are the author's own
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