Health Watch: Reducing the risk of dementia

More than 55 million people worldwide are believed to be living with dementia, according to the World Health Organization.
Published: Jun. 1, 2023 at 9:00 AM AKDT
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FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) - More than 55 million people worldwide are believed to be living with dementia, according to the World Health Organization, and women are likely to be affected twice as much as men.

Dementia is not one disease, but an umbrella term for a group of symptoms affecting memory, thinking, and social abilities, with Alzheimer’s being the most common form.

Dr. Ronald Petersen, Director of the Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center at Mayo Clinic, says you can’t completely prevent dementia, but you can reduce some of your risks.

Not every older adult will develop dementia, but there are risk factors that can be modified or changed.

According to Petersen, “Some of these are cardiovascular issues, like blood pressure, smoking, obesity, diabetes, education. Sleep is an important factor, as well as social isolation, and the development of depression.”

Heavy alcohol use, hearing loss, and air pollution may also be risk factors. Petersen explained, “If one were to attack one or more of these, you may actually be able to reduce your risk of developing cognitive impairment as you age.

He said to stay active physically, socially, and intellectually. To do so, one can exercise, read books, go to lectures, see family and friends, get your hearing checked, “and then maybe most importantly is sleep hygiene. Many people have difficulty with sleeping as they age for a variety of reasons,” said Petersen.

Former first lady Rosalynn Carter has recently been diagnosed with dementia.

A family statement, posted on the Carter Center website, says she continues to live happily at home with her husband, enjoying spring in Plains, Georgia, and visiting with loved ones.

The statement goes on to say the family hopes sharing their story will increase the number of important conversations at kitchen tables and in doctor’s offices around the country.

Health Watch is sponsored by Orthopedic and Sports Medicine Clinic of Fairbanks.