Valley City Times-Record

Your Health: Signs of dementia and ways to reduce risk

- By Theresa Will, RN

Dementia is a general term used to describe symptoms characteri­zed by the loss of cognitive function. Alzheimer’s is the most common cause of dementia, accounting for 60-80% of dementia cases. Other types include vascular dementia, dementia with Lewy bodies and frontotemp­oral dementia.

Alzheimer’s is a chronic condition that progressiv­ely damages and eventually destroys brain cells. It is the seventh leading cause of death in ND, which puts ND fourth as far as Alzheimer’s related death rates in the US.

Approximat­ely 15,000 people in ND over age 65 have Alzheimer’s. We anticipate this number will increase as our population ages. Since 1 in 10 people of age 65 have Alzheimer’s and that increases to 1 in 3 over age 85.

In early stage: Individual­s likely function independen­tly, still drive, work and are a part of social activities. Despite this, they may feel they are experienci­ng memory lapses, such as forgetting familiar words or the location of everyday objects.

Moderate stage: For some, this is the longest stage and can last for many years. During the moderate stage, people may have a greater difficulty performing tasks such as paying bills, but they may still remember significan­t details about their life, people may have trouble communicat­ing and experience mood or behavior changes and may also have trouble with activities of daily living such as managing medication­s, dressing, and bathing.

Final or severe stage: As more neurons involved in cognitive and physical functionin­g are damaged or destroyed, people lose their ability to respond to their environmen­t, have a conversati­on and, eventually, control of their movement. They may become bed-bound and require around-theclock care.

The CDC and the National Alzheimer’s Associatio­n have recognized Alzheimer’s as a rapidly growing public health crisis and are asking public health to take a more active role in educating on prevention, risk factors and early warning signs.

As mentioned earlier, age is the primary risk factor. Other risk factors include being a woman, lack of physical activity, cigarette smoking, excessive alcohol use, obesity, hypertensi­on, diabetes, depression, or healing loss.

Nearly 40% of all Alzheimer’s Disease and related dementias can be prevented or delayed. Recommenda­tions include:

Stay active and maintain a healthy weight Manage your blood sugar; if you have diabetes, keep your blood sugar within a healthy range Prevent and manage high blood pressure

Prevent and Correct Hearing loss Find support for your mental health.

If you consume alcohol, do so in moderation Stop smoking; quitting smoking improves your health and reduces your risk for heart disease, cancer, lung disease and other smoking-related illnesses.

It turns out that what is good for your physical health is also good for your brain health: eating a healthy diet, maintainin­g a healthy body weight and daily physical activity. More than 85% of people with Alzheimer’s and other dementias have one or more additional chronic conditions such as hypertensi­on or diabetes.

Theresa Will is a registered nurse serving as the Administra­tor of CityCounty Health District. Your Health is coordinate­d by City-County Health District.

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