Dementia, Part 3
The Better Life Experts | December 16, 2008

This Newsletter will give you some strategies to follow if you are in the position of helping a loved one who shows early signs of cognitive loss. It will also give you information about possible risks that can act as “triggers” for the disease, as well as ways to minimize the risk of triggering dementia.

What are some positive ways you or a family member can respond if
you become aware of a potential or diagnosed health problem?

  • Do not panic or self diagnose!
  • Make an appointment with a doctor for a physical and evaluation.
  • Take a family member along with you to your appointments. It’s impossible to remember every thing the doctor tells you about your condition, especially if you are anxious.
  • Get all the information you can from:
    • Reputable medical-health sources (e.g., The National Institutes of Health on Dementia and Alzheimer’s)
    • Your local chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association
    • The family. Ask questions. Get all the information you can get about the patient’s family (blood line) tree, including siblings, parents and grandparents, aunts and uncles, and first cousins.
    • Get a complete list as of ALL medications, supplements, herbal preparations, etc. the patient is presently taking; then inform the doctor
    • Get as thorough a health history as possible (e.g., illnesses, surgeries, accidents)
    • Check out all medical insurance for health coverage as well as any programs available in the community-health sector as possible.
According to The National Institute on Aging, scientists do not yet fully understand what causes Alzheimer’s and are currently looking more closely at the genetic component. It appears that genetic factors play a major role in determining who can/will develop the disease. However, even though genes play a major role, lifestyle and environmental factors may be the triggers.

What are some of these risk-producing triggers?

  • Oxidative damage to the brain caused by free radical deterioration. One of the main causes of oxidative damage to the brain is an unhealthy diet (i.e., too much junk food, not enough antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables or nutritional supplements in the daily diet).

  • Environmental factors (e.g., exposure to chemicals)

  • Not having a regular aerobic exercise program incorporated into daily life. Regular exercise helps to force life-giving oxygen to the brain.

  • Smoking and excessive alcohol consumption rob the body of nutrients necessary for healthy brain functioning.

  • The use of mind-altering drugs disrupts brain-chemistry and can interfere with the brain’s access to healthy levels of oxygen and nutrients.

Other important factors can impact the brain’s ability to function normally

  • Some medications may have side effects that mimic the symptoms of dementia. Make a list of the medications, herbs, supplements, etc. the individual is taking and get that report to the physician in charge.

  • Nutritional deficiencies caused by unhealthy lifestyle habits, (i.e. an unhealthy diet, alcoholism and regular recreational drug use), as well as the body’s inability to utilize the B vitamins.

  • Diets deficient in anti-oxidants, i.e. plant foods and supplements.

  • Persistent emotional problems that lead to depression, apathy, and forgetfulness can be misdiagnosed as dementia.

  • Infections such as meningitis and encephalitis can cause confusion, memory loss, or dementia.

  • Imbalances in the metabolic system, mainly thyroid function, can lead to apathy and depression. Make sure that the doctor checks the patient’s full thyroid panel.

  • Hormonal imbalances, especially the lack of estrogen, may play a role as a risk factor for dementia. The role of hormone replacement therapy is still unclear.

What can a person do for a parent or family member who has been
diagnosed with a form of dementia or Alzheimer’s disease?

  • Follow the doctor’s orders/suggestions.

  • Check out all the information you can find from reputable health research organizations, (i.e. The Alzheimer’s Organization).

  • Keep the patient as busy physically and intellectually as possible. A regular exercise program, as well as doing hand-crafts that require counting and hand movements is beneficial in staving off many of the physical problems often associated with dementia.

  • Insure that the patient is getting a nutritious diet as directed by a health professional. Limit junk foods and high-sugar foods!

  • Make sure that the patient is getting a high-potency vitamin and mineral supplement daily. Make sure a full compliment of the B vitamins are in the supplement.

  • Daily Antioxidant supplements, (i.e. 1,000 mg. vitamin C and 400-800 IU of vitamin E) are very important, as well as Omega 3 fatty acids with high quality DHA.

  • The herb Ginko Biloba has been shown to help delay the onset of Alzheimer’s disease, (i.e. 100-200 mg. daily or as medically prescribed). Look for a Ginko supplement that includes DHA.

What can an individual do to insure that he-she does not “come down with”
some form of dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, especially at a young age?

*Remember these important words: Every investment you make in your health today will pay dividends in your future.
  • Eat a heart-healthy Mediterranean Diet.

  • Exercise regularly! No excuses!

  • Supplement daily with a high potency multiple vitamin and mineral supplement.

  • Take Omega 3 fatty acids every day and include different types of seafood in your diet at least 3 times a week.

  • Do not smoke and only drink alcohol moderately (i.e. no more than 1 glass of wine per day).

  • Do not use recreational drugs...ever.

  • Take your medication as it is prescribed. Do not change it without your doctor’s permission and knowledge.

  • See your doctor regularly and report any health changes.

  • Check out your “family health tree” and report any family health challenges to your doctor (e.g., that rather strange aunt or uncle that everyone said was “different”).
This concludes our series on dementia and some of the conditions that look like dementia. We at Better Life Unlimited are committed to keeping you informed about the ways to enrich your life and helping you to live life healthier, longer. — Pat Zifferblatt and the Better Life experts
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