Dementia prevention, reversing, or curing: Is it to good to be true?
These days, a hot topic is reversing/curing, slowing, or preventing dementia. Unfortunately, statistically reliable or valid research on slowing, reversing, or preventing dementia does not exist. However, there are some things you can do that MAY reduce your risk or improve your cognition. Keep in mind that improving cognition is not the same as slowing dementia.
There is no “one-size-fit’s-all” for dementia, so there is no definitive way to detect at what rate dementia will progress with or without interventions.
Neuroplasticity is our ability to adapt to damaged parts of our brain. This is something our brains do automatically by essentially reorganizing the way information is processed. Neuroplasticity allows us to compensate for injury and disease and to adjust activities in response to new situations or to changes in their environment. This is helpful for normal brain function, but also for maintaining cognitive health as we age. But how can we improve our neuroplasticity?
This may improve your cognition
- Cognitive reserve– We can lessen the risk of cognitive decline by having more skills, information, knowledge, education, experiences, etc. that are in our brain. In a healthy adult, studies have shown that having an advanced education, a challenging job (ie: managerial position), social stimulation, being well traveled, or having many interests can help protect the cognitive reserve. In other words- socialize, learn new things, challenge yourself!
- Physical exercise– Regular exercise, even just walking, can improve cognitive function. As a Gerontologist, I recommend weight training in addition to cardiovascular exercise. Both are helpful for physical health and may also be helpful for cognitive health. I also recommend working with a Fitness Professional (certified personal trainer and/or physical therapist) to ensure proper form and technique.
Remedies that claim they prevent dementia
When friends or family members come to me for advice on preventing dementia, they’ve usually heard about something on Dr. Oz or read an article in a magazine. After giving them my research speech, I always suggest that before implementing any new remedy, they consult with their doctor. If the intervention is not harmful, then give it a try. However, if a doctor advises against new remedies, this may due to other medical conditions or risks someone may have, it is important to listen. The risks will most likely outweigh the benefit as the valid and reliable research on preventing, curing, or slowing dementia does not exist at this time.
As a side note, I find that many don’t fully understand whether or not a research study is “trustworthy,” or as we say “reliable and valid.” This results in a lot of misinformation and misunderstanding. Therefore, I really like this article for breaking it down simply.