As the number of failed clinical trials for drugs to treat or prevent Alzheimer’s disease continues to grow, researchers are hard at work exploring new avenues to help prevent a rapidly aging population from developing dementia. But it’s not a magic drug or supplement that helps protect against this dreaded disease that robs older adults of their memories and their independence; currently, the best dementia prevention strategies are to get more exercise, manage high blood pressure and stay mentally active.
Middle aged adults, especially those caring for an elderly loved-one with dementia, may be looking for any and all means of preventing their own cognitive decline. But a recent New York Times report in The New Old Age that takes a deep dive into the subject warns older adults that most supplements that boast of their brain-protective powers are little more than snake oil. Although roughly 80 percent of older adults are taking some kind of dietary supplement, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, most have no evidence to back up their claims to treat or prevent a multitude of health problems.
Rather tha throw money at the problem, research tells us that eating a healthy, Mediterranean-style diet, getting regular moderate exercise and staying engaged by learning new skills are the best ways to reduce the risk for dementia. There is a genetic component to developing Alzheimer’s disease and dementia in older age but taking action early can slow if not prevent diseases that impair cognition. Controlling high blood pressure throughout middle and older age is also linked with significantly reducing the risk for mild cognitive impairment, which often precedes a diagnosis of dementia.
American Heart Association 2017 Blood Pressure Guidelines
- Previous guidelines identified high blood pressure as ≥ 140/90 mm Hg. This guideline now defines high blood pressure to be anyone with a systolic blood pressure (SBP) ≥ 130 mm Hg or diastolic blood pressure (DBP) ≥ 80 mm Hg.
- The change will mean more patients are diagnosed with hypertension.
In addition to exercise, diet and treating high blood pressure, experts advise older adults to stay socially connected, get enough sleep, stop smoking, properly manage diabetes and seek treatment for hearing loss and depression. Obesity, a growing epidemic among North American adults, also plays a role in the development of dementia.
In a nutshell; save your dollars for a new pair of walking shoes and a grocery cart full of fresh fruits, vegetables and fish and take your prescription medication as directed by your doctor.
Learn more about dementia prevention, intervention and care by following this link to the Lancet Commission on Dementia Prevention’s 2017 report.