Dementia: Are You at Risk?

As you are getting older, you may become more forgetful; memory lapses are more common among the elderly. Although you have increasing risk of developing dementia due to aging, it does not necessarily mean that you are going to have dementia when you are getting old. As a matter of fact, less than 10 percent of the elderly at age 85 or beyond develop dementia, or actually experience severe intellectual impairment and memory loss, which are the characteristics of dementia.

Dementia is losing the mind: that is, the mind is slowly slipping away with memory loss that may adversely affect everyday normal physical and mental functioning.

Are you at risk for dementia?

You may be at risk for dementia if the following is applicable to you:

(1) If you have a family history of dementia, then you should take extra care of your brain. Genes do play a part in the development of dementia. Unfortunately, there is not much you can do about that, except keeping a healthy brain.

(2) If you have a dysfunctional thyroid, you may have the propensity to develop dementia. The good news is that this type of dementia is often treatable and even reversible. Eat a thyroid diet to optimize your thyroid health.

(3) If you have had a stroke, you may also develop vascular dementia, which is the 2nd most common type of dementia caused by the hardening of the arteries as a result of poor blood circulation and inadequate supply of oxygen and nutrients to the brain. Therefore, it is important to maintain heart health, and to carefully monitor your numbers related to your blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar levels, and your body weight.

(4) If you have chronic depression, you may be more vulnerable to memory loss, confusion, and impaired mental function and coordination. However, scientists cannot determine whether depression causes dementia, or depression is the result of dementia, because their symptoms may be quite similar. Mind healing is as important as physical healing.

(5) If you have other health problems that adversely affect your brain health, such as excessive alcohol consumption, drug abuse, especially those anesthetic agents, narcotic analgesics, and benzodiazepines, and nicotine addiction, you inadvertently promote the development of dementia as you continue to age. A wayward lifestyle creates free radicals that damage the brain as well as the immune system, and thus not only contributing to but also accelerating the progress of dementia. 

(6) If you have had brain damage due to injury or dehydration, you may become more susceptible to dementia as you continue to age. Any brain injury, however minor, should be taken seriously.

If you are at high risk for developing dementia, you may like to watch out for the early signs of dementia. Be aware that symptoms of dementia may be slow but progressive. Some of the more common signs of dementia may include the following:

(1) You may become uncharacteristically negative and suspicious. However, sometimes it is difficult to tell if it is dementia or not, especially if you are also suffering from anxiety or depression.

(2) You may become negligent of your personal care and grooming, such as not bathing or shampooing. Again, if you have been suffering from severe depression, you may also neglect your personal hygiene during your depression episodes.

(3) You may have difficulty in conversation, such as repeating the same thing, or talking vaguely without any specifics. 

(4) You may be losing your motor skills, such as writing illegibly, or being unable to type or use the computer.

(5) You may become unable to make a phone call, not to mention that you cannot remember the phone number.

(6) You may eat improperly, such as eating only sweets instead of a proper meal.

(7) You may keep the house uncharacteristically cluttered and disorganized.

(8) You may show poor judgment in spending, or go on spending sprees. 

(9) You may also show other more dangerous signs of dementia, such as consistently forgetting to turn off the stove; wandering around outside the house at night; acting inappropriately in response to "paranoid" suspicions, such as calling the police based on your "paranoia."

The human brain is made up trillions of brain cells. Only 10 percent of these brains cells have been utilized over your lifetime, and there is still a great deal that you can tap into. Yes, you can even train your brain to become smarter at any age. Remember, use it or lose it. Do not lose your mind, and do not let it slip! 

Stephen Lau
Copyright © Stephen Lau

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