Don’t Forget; There Are Ways to Prevent Dementia

HYANNIS – Some things should be unforgettable. Your mother’s smile. The first time you fell in love. The homerun you hit in third grade.

Dementia threatens to rob us of treasured memories. But there are ways to reduce your risk.

A newstudyfrom the National Institutes of Health followed 15,744 people over 25 years and found that people ages 45-64 who have diabetes, high blood pressure (also called hypertension) and prehypertension have a higher chance of developing dementia.

[DOWNLOAD: Know the Facts About High Blood Pressure]

The good news is that the study,Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities, shows that there are many lifestyle changes you can make that will reduce your chances of developing dementia later in life.

“There are many other studies that reinforce these findings, but this study is major and reaffirms the importance of the healthy habits we’ve been focusing on for years,” said Hyannis neurologistSean P. Horrigan, DO.

Dementia is a group of symptoms caused by disorders that affect the brain, he explained. Memory loss is usually the earliest and most noticeable symptom of dementia.

To lower your risk for dementia, stroke and cardiovascular disease, you need to do everything possible to maintain brain health and healthy blood vessels, he said. You will stay your healthiest if your blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar are good and you avoid toxins like tobacco and alcohol.

According to Dr. Horrigan, there are several key ways to reduce your risk of dementia, including:

  • Control your blood pressure
  • Maintain a healthy cholesterol level
  • Keep blood sugar levels under control
  • Don’t smoke
  • If you drink alcohol, drink in moderation
  • Eat a healthy diet rich in fruits and vegetables
  • Exercise at least three days a week

“My job is to motivate people to take better care of themselves because this growing body of scientific evidence shows that controlling your risk factors improves your health.

“You want to invest money in your grocery store, not the pharmacy. When you make the right food choices, you are doing the best thing you can to stay healthy,” said Dr. Horrigan, who recommends theMediterranean Dietand drinking plenty of water each day.

When patients who have experienced strokes ask what they can do to prevent further memory loss, Dr. Horrigan’s answer is the same: Control your risk factors, eat a healthy diet and exercise.

To help everyone remember the link between risk factors and dementia, the National Institutes of Health has created theMind Your Risks® public health campaign with bold images and science-based, easy-to-understand messages.

Visitwww.MindYourRisks.nih.govfor dozens of interesting, interactive resources. Remember the theme: High blood pressure is even riskier.

By BETH ANN LOMBARDI, Cape Cod Health News

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