It seems every time we read a magazine or newspaper, there’s another article on brain health. It comes up in conversation often: Someone you know has been diagnosed with some form of dementia.
The statistics are alarming. According to the World Health Organization, there are 47.5 million people worldwide living with a form of dementia.
Dementia and Alzheimer’s disease are often confused with each other because they are sometimes used interchangeably. Dementia, however, is not a disease but a group of symptoms that are trademarked by impaired thinking and memory loss that interferes with daily living.
Alzheimer’s disease is the cause of most dementia cases, but not all. Some forms of dementia might be reversible, such as those related to vitamin deficiencies, alcohol and drug abuse, side effects of medicines, removable tumors, low blood sugar and those associated with certain thyroid conditions.
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Someone can have more memory and thinking problems than what is associated with normal aging but be capable of daily living. This mild cognitive impairment can be reversible or irreversible, but it’s not defined as dementia, although it does increase your risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.
A growing body of research shows that the cause of MCI and certain dementias probably stems from a combination of genetic, environmental and lifestyle factors. Age and genetics are risk factors that are out of our control, but we can improve our lifestyle through exercise, diet, social activities and mental stimulation.
Simply a brisk walk for 20 to 30 minutes every day will increase blood flow and deliver oxygen to your brain and the rest of your body, decreasing risks of some dementias and improving heart and lung function.
Other factors that might favorably affect the risks of dementia are medication reviews, not smoking, weight management, alcohol in moderation, stress reduction and sleep.
Seek advice from your physician, a dietitian and a qualified fitness professional to improve your lifestyle for a healthier brain.
Those diagnosed with MCI or mild dementia can learn more about how to take control of their health in Brainworks, a free series of programs each Wednesday in October.
The programs, provided by Baptist Health Medical Group Neurology and Baptist HealthwoRx Fitness & Wellness Center, will be 2 to 3:30 p.m. at HealthwoRx in Lexington Green. To register or find out more, call 859-260-4354.
Anne Bradley Merchant, a certified medical exercise specialist, fitness practitioner and health coach, works at Baptist HealthwoRx Fitness & Wellness Center.