The term dementia is a generalized description for a group of signs and symptoms caused by diseases and disorders that target the brain.
These life-altering diseases include conditions like Alzheimer’s, but even a brain disaster like a stroke can lead to Dementia.
Currently, there are approximately 5 million people in the United States living with Alzheimer’s.
So many people are affected in fact, that it’s very likely you know someone struggling with dementia right now.
And watching someone you love deal with the dementia can be heart wrenching.
Symptoms often include loss of memory, trouble with language, as well as personality changes, delusional thoughts, irritation and difficulty solving problems and controlling their emotions.
Brain diseases like Alzheimer’s are known to cause a lot of pain and suffering, especially for the families of those suffering. But, unfortunately drugs have consistently failed to make so much as a dent in the prevention of these horrible brain tragedies.
Regardless, there does appear to be some good news…
Breakthrough Treatment Delays
And May Even Prevent Dementia
In a recent breakthrough study published in the journal Aging researchers found that by using a comprehensive, personally focused treatment program that included diet and exercise, they were able to literally reverse some of the symptoms associated with Alzheimer’s.
In fact, the results were so profound several of the study participants were able to return to their jobs.3
With results like these showing tremendous promise, scientists are hopeful that integrated, personally focused treatment programs could be the missing piece of the puzzle when it comes to fighting this and other brain related diseases.
However, until these integrated approaches become mainstream most people won’t know about them.
That’s why it’s so important that you take a few simples steps right now to lower your risk of dementia…before it’s too late.
According to a recent study published in the Lancet, up to 35% of dementia cases could actually have their progression slowed or in some cases even reversed.4
Modify Your Risk Factors
Doctors have identified nine easily modified risk factors associated with increased risk of dementia including:
- Limited early education
- Hypertension that starts in middle age
- Loss of Hearing
- An onset of depression late in life
- Lack of physical activity
- And lack of socialization
Now let’s take a look at some additional ways that researchers say you can lower your risk.
8 Ways to Lower Your Risk of Dementia
You’ve probably already heard that eating processed foods and eating a more Mediterranean style diet are great ways to lower your risk of dementia, so is exercising.
But in addition to these dementia risk lowering strategies there are 8 simple additional steps you can take.
1. Keep on the lookout for excessive Copper in your water
While it’s true that we all need trace amounts of the heavy metal copper to survive. (it’s important for bone health, hormone and nerve health). But too much, can cause problems. And those problems occur most often in the brain.
One study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in 2013 found that too much copper can be a catalyst to the onset of Alzheimer’s and fuel its progression. In fact, during the study researchers found that levels of copper in our drinking water at just one-tenth of the water quality standards set by the Environmental Protection Agency caused a toxicaccumulation of the pro-Alzheimer’s protein amyloid beta.5
Unfortunately, researchers still aren’t clear on exactly how much is too much when it comes to copper. However, if you have copper water pipes, it’s probably a good idea to get your water tested for excess copper. If you’re using a water filter that is NSF-certified under NSF/ANSI 53 for copper reduction it will reduce copper to below the EPA’s maximum contaminant level or lower.6
2. If You Can, Try To Avoid Allergy Medications and Other Drugs Linked to Dementia
There are certain drugs that researchers have linked to an increased risk of dementia. These include common allergy and sleep medications, including popular brands like Benadryl, Dramamine, Advil PM and Unisom. These drugs are known to be anticholinergic which means they block important brain chemicals. Drugs with this trait are becoming increasingly linked to Alzheimer’s.
In 2016 a study published in JAMA Neurology used brain imaging to determine how anticholinergic drugs affect the brain. By utilizing MRI and PET scanning technology, researchers were able to determine that people taking anticholinergic drugs exhibited a lower brain metabolism and more brain atrophy. Participants who were taking these types of medications also scored worse on memory tests.7
Another study done at the University of Washington revealed that long-term use of certain anticholinergic sleep aids and allergy medications also increased a person’s risk of dementia. This study showed that those taking the drugs for longer than three years, increased their risk of dementia.8
3. Sleep In Brain Protecting Positions
Believe it or not, the position you sleep in is important when it comes to the health of your brain. As it turns out most people sleep on their sides and this is a good thing. That’s because sleeping on your side is better for your brain.
In 2015 a group of researchers found that sleeping on your side improves the brains ability to remove waste products. This in turn lowers your risk of acquiring brain diseases like Alzheimer’s.
And while we all know that lack of sleep can affect the brain, in a recent study, researchers proved the connection between HOW you sleep and your overall brain health.
In this study published in the Journal of Neuroscience researchers found that the brain’s glymphatic pathway, a comprehensive system that clears waste products and other brain harming chemicals from the brain, worked best while people slept on their sides, as opposed to sleeping on their stomachs or on their backs. This system is responsible for clearing things like amyloid β (amyloid) and tau proteins from the brain. These are chemicals that can harm the brain if they are allowed to build up.9
4. Avoid Contact With Brain Damaging Pesticides
Doctors are beginning to realize that there are more than just genetic factors at play when it comes to developing dementia.
For example, in research led by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, people with higher levels of DDT a harmful pesticide banned in the 70’s are much more likely to be diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. In fact, those people with Alzheimer’s had, on average, 3.8 times more DDE, a DDT breakdown product, in their blood compared to people who did not have Alzheimer’s disease.10
And while DDT has been banned for decades, it still persists in the environment.
The good news is that levels of DDT in humans is beginning to drop. In this day and age your most likely to be exposed to DDT through the food you consume, and animal and fatty foods have the highest levels, because DDT is stored in fat.11
You can also lower your exposure to DDT by avoiding nonorganic produce imported from countries still using DDT.
5. Find a Purpose
Researchers at Rush University Medical Center found an interesting connection between a person’s sense of purpose and their risk of dementia. Folks participating in the study who reported higher levels of purpose were almost 2 ½ times less likely to develop Alzheimer’s compared to those with lower scores.
According to the study a life full of purpose was defined as having a sense of direction and purpose in life, feeling good when reliving past accomplishments and hoping for good things in the future.12
6. Watch Out For Low Vitamin D Levels
Back in 2015 researchers from the U.K published a study in Neurology suggesting that people with a severe Vitamin D deficiency defined as (less than 10 ng/mL) face a 122 % increased risk of dementia.
For those who just had a deficiency defined as (less than 20 ng/mL) had a 51 % higher risk of all-cause dementia.13
The best way to find your vitamin D levels is to have your doctor run a 5-hydroxyvitamin D or 25(OH)D blood test. Make sure you get the actual number, because if you’re above 30 ng/ml the test will come back as normal.
Most natural health doctors agree that anything less than 60 ng/ml needs to be addressed, some say anything below 80 ng/ml. Once you’ve established your baseline, you can take steps to increase your vitamin D levels. Increasing sun exposure and eating vitamin rich foods is a good start, but you can also supplement with D3.
7. Maintain Good Oral Health
It goes without saying that you should take excellent care of your teeth, but what you might not know is that keeping your teeth and gums healthy can also help protect your brain.
In one large scale study looking at the dental habits of 5,500 elderly people over an 18-year period researcher’s found a strong connection between people with poor oral hygiene and the onset of Alzheimer’s.
People who reported brushing their teeth less than once per day were 65% more likely to develop dementia when compared to those who brushed at least twice a day.14
8. Get Out And Walk At Least 3 Times Per Week
In a recent study, researchers analyzed how exercise affects vascular cognitive impairment, the second most common form of dementia worldwide.
In brain-scan studies people with vascular cognitive impairment show increased nerve cell activity in the parts of the brain associated with memory, decision-making and attention. What this means is that their brains have to actually work harder than normal healthy brains for the same result.
To evaluate whether exercise can make a positive difference, researchers recruited 38 elderly people who had a prior diagnosis of mild early vascular cognitive impairment.
At the time of the study none of the test subjects were participating in any type of exercise.
Each test subject had their brain activity measured and were then instructed to participate in 3 supervised one-hour exercise sessions per week.
At the end of the study, the walkers had lower blood pressure than the control group and their brains were working better. They showed less excessive brain activity in the areas associated with attention and rapid decision making.15
Putting It All Together…
What Does It All Mean?
Watching a loved one decline as dementia sets in can be emotionally taxing and frustrating to say the least.
It’s hard on them and on those that love them.
But, there is hope.
And by taking these 8 simple steps you’ll be doing a lot to protect your brain while lowering your risk.