Researchers say women can reduce their risk of developing the disease by adopting seven healthy lifestyle habits. These daily habits include physical activity, eating a balanced diet, and maintaining healthy blood pressure.
Women who adopt seven healthy habits could reduce their risk of developing dementia, according to a new study presented this week at the 75th annual meeting of the American Academy of Neurology.
In their study, the researchers followed 13,720 women for 20 years to analyze their risk of developing dementia. They reviewed Medicare claims at the end of the study to determine who had been diagnosed.
The women were given a score for seven health factors, with 0 corresponding to “poor” and 7 to “excellent”. The average score at the start of the study was 4.3. After 10 years of follow-up, it was 4.2.
After 20 years, 1,771 women had been diagnosed with dementia. After adjusting for factors such as age and education, the researchers found that for every one-point increase in overall score, participants’ risk of dementia decreased by 6%. One limitation of the study is that the researchers were not provided with information to see how changes in healthy habits, such as quitting smoking, influenced the risk of dementia.
The 7 healthy lifestyle habits
For their study, the researchers used the American Heart Association’s “Life’s Simple 7” lifestyle habits.
These seven factors are:
To be active
Maintain a healthy weight
Maintain healthy blood pressure
Have low blood sugar
The good news is that this is not an all-or-nothing situation. You don’t have to be the healthiest person. Even if women score well in one or two areas, they derive some benefit from it. Any improvement results in a gradual improvement in long-term health. If you change your habits, you will reap the benefits for your health. The sooner you make these changes. The longer you stick with your new habits, the better. The goal is to find an easy way to keep track of your health.
What is dementia?
Dementia is an overall decline in cognitive abilities, usually affecting short-term memory (learning/recalling new information) and one other (or more) cognitive ability, such as decline in executive abilities (organization, decision-making), language or visual-spatial abilities. In the case of dementia, these declines usually impact the person’s ability to be fully independent (i.e. they may have difficulty managing finances or medication, difficulty driving , etc.
Women make up about two-thirds of people with dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease. One of the reasons is that women live longer than men and dementia usually appears after the age of 80. Other possible explanations are:
– A higher level of education is associated with lower rates of dementia. Many older women today have not had the same educational opportunities as men.
– Dementia is linked to depression, and more women suffer from depression than men
– People who exercise are less likely to develop dementia and women exercise less than men.
When women have dementia, their decline is faster than that of men. They may therefore be affected by a more serious illness. Dementia occurs when neurons in the brain stop working or interacting with other brain cells. Everyone loses neurons as they age, but people with dementia experience greater loss. Although many people over the age of 85 have dementia, it is not considered a normal part of aging.
Types and symptoms of dementia
Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia, but it is not the only one.
Here are some other types of dementia:
Lewy body dementia
Some people may have a combination of two or more types of dementia.
The signs and symptoms of dementia are:
– Loss of memory, poor judgment and confusion.
– Difficulty speaking, understanding and expressing thoughts, or reading and writing.
– Wandering and loss of bearings in a familiar neighborhood.
– Difficulty managing money responsibly and paying bills.
– Repetition of questions.
– Use of unusual words to refer to everyday objects.
– Take more time to complete usual daily tasks.
– Loss of interest in normal daily activities or events.
– Hallucinations, delusions or paranoia.
– Act impulsively.
– Losing balance and having difficulty moving
Experts say it’s important to know when symptoms are getting worse.
When you start noticing these symptoms, at home or in a loved one, it may be time to see a doctor. The same goes for new changes, new symptoms, or worsening of previous symptoms. There are treatments, which cannot cure or reverse the damage. However, they can slow the progression of the disease. New treatments are another reason to see a doctor.