The Common Habit You Need to Stop Immediately to Cut Your Dementia Risk in Half
As we age, dementia could potentially impact all of us at some point in time. Currently, there are 47.5 million people affected, with over 7.7 million new cases each year. Have I gotten your attention yet?!
Dementia is a chronic deterioration of cognition that is often irreversible. Our cognition relies on mental processes such as reasoning, judgement, perception and memory. The raw truth is our brains are naturally declining with age. This begins to happen when you begin to forget things, lose focus easily, are not able to concentrate and have less ability to solve even simple problems. The stages are slow and progressive.
In the early stages of dementia, you may be unable to identify objects, unable to retain previous learnt motor skills, and it is difficult to use or comprehend language. In the mid stages things continue to get worse, but now there is a disruption in behavioral problems; such as getting lost, wandering off or feeling easily agitated and hostile. This late stage is severe. Patients are unable to manage daily activities; dressing up, brushing their teeth or eating. Often they require the assistance of facility and a support staff.
Consider dementia as a big umbrella disease for many subtypes fall within it such as; Vascular dementia (VaD), Lew-body dementia, Frontotemporal, HIV-associated and the most common Alzheimers dementia (AD). AD is actually responsible for 60-70% of all cases of dementia.
AD usually begins after age 65 and has a 5-15% genetic link. The cause is still unclear, however, scientists believe it is related to genetic mutations, which in turn cause two things to happen; beta- amyloid ( bA) deposition and neurofibrillary tangles occurring in the brain. This deposition causes the nerves ( neurons) in the brain not to fire properly, thus leading the brain tissue to wither away (atrophy). Specifically the mesial temporal lobe ( located on either side of the head), which is responsible for retention of visual memory. Where did I leave my car keys, again?
Science has proven that certain lifestyle activities may increase the chance of dementia. If you are interested in keeping your brain in tip-top shape take note of these 4 bad habits listed below!
4 Bad Habits That Are 100% Linked to Dementia
1. Drinking Alcohol
We all know that drinking too much is bad for the body. How do you feel after a big night out drinking? Both imaging and neuropathology studies suggest excessive and prolonged alcohol use, contribute to structural and functional changes in the brain that are permanent. These changes may arise from direct toxicity (aka oxidative stress damage) on the brain or due to a deficiency in vitamin B1 (also known as thiamin, a critical vitamin needed for proper brain and nervous system functioning).
A massive systematic review and meta-analysis of over 23 studies suggested that small amounts of alcohol may be protective against dementia and AD, yet are significantly linked to causing both VaD and cognitive decline. Further, their evidence suggests limiting alcohol earlier in life, confers a protective effect against dementia incidents later in life!
In another study with 1709 participants, researchers found an increased monthly intake of beer significantly associated with dementia risk. Whereas, a monthly/weekly intake of wine was actually linked to a lowered risk. Could wine be protective? We do not know the answer to this question yet- but we do know that moderation is key as excessive drinking can be harmful to the body and the brain. See the picture below:
Compared with the brain of a normal elderly individual (Panel A), the wider grooves and narrower ridges of the brains in Panels B and C reflect the shrinkage of brain tissue seen in Alzheimer’s disease and alcoholism.
What about early onset alcohol induced dementia? Yes, you heard me right! Early onset means being diagnosed with Dementia between the ages of 30-64. In Australia, they have reported 8 cases per 100,000 at risk. According to this research, the number is creeping up!
Bottom line, if you enjoy a glass of wine, follow the guidelines recommended by large health educational bodies such as the National Health Society (NHS).The NHS recommended limits are currently a maximum of 14 units each week for men and women, spread over 3 or more days. However, lower limits are suggested for older people because their bodies handle alcohol differently. A small 125ml glass of wine is typically about 1.5 units and a pint of beer, lager or cider is usually 2-2.5 units. This would mean no more than 9 SMALL glasses of wine a week, and the wine is not to be consumed on just a Friday and Saturday night.
‘Don’t smoke! It’s so bad for your lungs, heart, and especially those tiny blood vessels that support your brain!’ Yes, we are talking about that pesky bad habit of the most addictive kind, smoking. In a massive systematic review of 37 studies, across all major medical databases, smokers had an increased risk of Dementia (compared to non-smokers)! Not surprising. There was no significant difference if you were a woman or man if you were a different race, or in a different geographical region.
Did you know, that a report published over 25 years ago concluded that smoking could actually be beneficial in dementia? Ha! How things have changed!!
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