What we can do?

Dr Cesar Rodriguez talks about things you can do to reduce the risk of dementia or delay symptoms right now.

Prof June Andrews comments…

There is a lot of guidance about in the popular press about how to delay dementia. The problem with the research is that it is hard to know who would have developed dementia regardless of their good or bad habits, so you don’t know if their exercise, or clean living, made much difference.

Here is an example of some ideas from Mumsnet – which even if they don’t make a massive difference, at least are fun, and harmless.

  • Vitamins may help! Some studies show that folates, vitamin E and vitamin B reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s, the commonest kind of dementia. Red fruits, which have lots of antioxidants, are also good for you.
  • Omega 3, the famous omega fatty acids, found in cold water fish, dramatically slowed down the progress of Alzheimer’s in some studies in mice. This isn’t conclusive, but it can’t hurt … and we were always told that fish is brain food!
  • Green tea may help. It inhibits the activity of enzymes associated with the development of protein deposits in the brain. Black tea helps, but green tea seems to work for longer
  • It is said that a glass of wine may reduce the risk of dementia. Wine drinkers may eat better than other drinkers, so more research is needed about the cause, but a daily glass of wine may have benefits as far as we know
  • Avoiding getting drunk is really important. The number of young people with dementia caused by heavy drinking is increasing. Don’t destroy your brain. You’re going to need it until you die.
  • Exercise can reduce the chance of developing dementia – and it’s never too late to benefit, so get into that swimming pool, or get your coat on and take a walk now. A healthy body can help you keep a healthy mind. What’s good for the heart is good for the head.
  • Mental activity is important. Do things that challenge your mind, whether it’s Sudoku or discussing politics with your children. In mice it seems that the increased blood flow to the brain from puzzles develops more function. Whatever the reason, don’t let your brain vegetate. It needs to work out just like your body.
  • People with larger brains or who took more education have some protection against dementia. Big heads often have bigger brains in them, but even if your hat size is small, you can develop on the inside. The important thing is to have some spare capacity if part of your brain starts to fade.
  • Ballroom dancing, when you need to remember steps, respond to music and relate to a partner, is very good for postponing dementia.
  • Many people dread dementia. Care for people with dementia has improved radically. If you’re eating good things with a glass of wine and dancing to music, at the very least you’re enjoying life to the full now. So if you get dementia you’ll continue to do that, because you’ve had lots of practice.

Of course, these cheerful ideas don’t reflect the difficulties that people face. Elsewhere on the same network, a contributor to Mumsnet speaks about how annoyed she is by “helpful” dementia articles.

The lesson is that much of what we see in the popular press does not fit the experience of people with dementia and their carers, and is “infotainment” rather than information.

Reviewed March 1, 2019