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Brain health and dementia 

You can build up a cognitive reserve to keep your brain healthy into old age. With the right tools and support, dementia symptoms can also be managed.

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LiveUp - Brain health and dementia

Keeping your brain active is a great way to build reserves of healthy brain cells. It is also important for maintaining the connections between brain cells. According to the Brain Foundation, there are many ways to keep your brain healthy.

Harvard Health says that brainy activities stimulate new connections between nerve cells. They may even help the brain generate new cells. This means you can develop neurological plasticity as well as building a reserve of cognitive ability.

When you’re older this could help delay the onset of dementia. Scientists think this is because the brain gets more opportunities to receive signals (USU 2023).

Keeping your brain active is a great way to build reserves of healthy brain cells. It is also important for maintaining the connections between brain cells. According to the Brain Foundation, there are many ways to keep your brain healthy.

Harvard Health says that brainy activities stimulate new connections between nerve cells. They may even help the brain generate new cells. This means you can develop neurological plasticity as well as building a reserve of cognitive ability.

When you’re older this could help delay the onset of dementia. Scientists think this is because the brain gets more opportunities to receive signals (USU 2023).

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Dementia

Dementia is a term used to describe a collection of symptoms caused by disorders affecting the brain. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia.

Dementia is a term used to describe a collection of symptoms caused by disorders affecting the brain. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia.

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Alzheimer’s disease

Ongoing research and new discoveries about Alzheimer’s disease continue to emerge. The genetics of Alzheimer’s disease is complex. More than one gene mutation can be a cause. Also, genes on many chromosomes are involved.

Ten years ago, researchers found only 10 genes linked with Alzheimer’s. Since then, scientists have discovered more than 70 (NIH 2023).

Genetics also explain only about a third of cases. This is because your actions and choices can positively or negatively change the way certain genes work. Your risk may increase because of factors like an unhealthy diet, smoking, not exercising, or head injuries.

Ongoing research and new discoveries about Alzheimer’s disease continue to emerge. The genetics of Alzheimer’s disease is complex. More than one gene mutation can be a cause. Also, genes on many chromosomes are involved.

Ten years ago, researchers found only 10 genes linked with Alzheimer’s. Since then, scientists have discovered more than 70 (NIH 2023).

Genetics also explain only about a third of cases. This is because your actions and choices can positively or negatively change the way certain genes work. Your risk may increase because of factors like an unhealthy diet, smoking, not exercising, or head injuries.

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Lowering your risk

Physical and cognitive exercise can reduce your risk of dementia (BMCG 2016). Almost any type of mental activity may be beneficial. Activities with a social aspect are even better. Many of these examples offer a combination of mental, physical, and social benefits:

  • Sports, dancing, gardening
  • Arts, crafts and other hobbies
  • Challenging yourself with games and puzzles
  • Enjoying music or playing musical instruments
  • Reading and learning new things from courses or media
  • Getting out and about to places like museums, exhibitions or community events and activities

Physical and cognitive exercise can reduce your risk of dementia (BMCG 2016). Almost any type of mental activity may be beneficial. Activities with a social aspect are even better. Many of these examples offer a combination of mental, physical, and social benefits:

  • Sports, dancing, gardening
  • Arts, crafts and other hobbies
  • Challenging yourself with games and puzzles
  • Enjoying music or playing musical instruments
  • Reading and learning new things from courses or media
  • Getting out and about to places like museums, exhibitions or community events and activities
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What’s good for your heart is also good for your brain

Oxygen is carried to the brain by blood vessels. You can keep your blood vessels healthy with what you eat, how much you move, not smoking and controlling your cholesterol and blood pressure. Keeping your heart healthy is something you can work on every day. The Heart Foundation lists practical tips for:

  • Eating a heart healthy diet and being more active
  • Smoke-free living
  • Controlling your cholesterol levels and blood pressure

Dementia Australia offers a range of resources for reducing your risk of developing dementia. You can also download their Healthy brain, healthy life booklet.

Oxygen is carried to the brain by blood vessels. You can keep your blood vessels healthy with what you eat, how much you move, not smoking and controlling your cholesterol and blood pressure. Keeping your heart healthy is something you can work on every day. The Heart Foundation lists practical tips for:

  • Eating a heart healthy diet and being more active
  • Smoke-free living
  • Controlling your cholesterol levels and blood pressure

Dementia Australia offers a range of resources for reducing your risk of developing dementia. You can also download their Healthy brain, healthy life booklet.

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Dementia diagnosis, management and support

The Department of Health and Aged Care has helpful information on:

  • Symptoms of dementia and when to seek help
  • Diagnosis
  • Dementia management
  • Support and training options

Kate Swaffer is an award-winning Australian campaigner for the rights of people with dementia. She has reframed dementia as a disability that can be managed. Learn more at Dementia Alliance International, and Forward with Dementia.

The Department of Health and Aged Care has helpful information on:

  • Symptoms of dementia and when to seek help
  • Diagnosis
  • Dementia management
  • Support and training options

Kate Swaffer is an award-winning Australian campaigner for the rights of people with dementia. She has reframed dementia as a disability that can be managed. Learn more at Dementia Alliance International, and Forward with Dementia.

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Supporting carers

Research has shown that with support, a good quality of life is possible. Not only for the person with dementia, but also for their carers (Dementia Australia 2023).

When caring for another person it is important to take care of your own health. Connect with others who understand, and get support when you need it.

There are many non-profit and government funded programs and services. Healthdirect provides links to resources for carers of people with dementia.

Research has shown that with support, a good quality of life is possible. Not only for the person with dementia, but also for their carers (Dementia Australia 2023).

When caring for another person it is important to take care of your own health. Connect with others who understand, and get support when you need it.

There are many non-profit and government funded programs and services. Healthdirect provides links to resources for carers of people with dementia.

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Training for family carers

Today, more is known about the symptoms caused by many disorders affecting the brain. There is also a better understanding of what it is like to experience these symptoms.

The focus is on supporting people with dementia and their family carers to live well at home. Training family members to care for their loved ones is having positive results.

After training, family members understand their loved one’s behaviour. This makes it easier to manage day-to-day caregiving. As a result, the family member with dementia becomes more involved with activities. This is what a study of the COPE program found (Gerontologist 2021).

Today, more is known about the symptoms caused by many disorders affecting the brain. There is also a better understanding of what it is like to experience these symptoms.

The focus is on supporting people with dementia and their family carers to live well at home. Training family members to care for their loved ones is having positive results.

After training, family members understand their loved one’s behaviour. This makes it easier to manage day-to-day caregiving. As a result, the family member with dementia becomes more involved with activities. This is what a study of the COPE program found (Gerontologist 2021).

Read less...

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LiveUp - Brain health and dementia

References

  1. Utah State University | Ageing Extension (September 2023), A healthy brain: use it or lose it! https://extension.usu.edu/aging/research/a-healthy-brain-use-it-or-lose-it
  2. ABC News (18 July 2023), New class of Alzheimer's drugs showing promise in patients in early stage of disease. https://www.abc.net.au/news/2023-07-18/alzheimers-disease-new-drugs-showing-promise/102612162
  3. NIH > National Institute on Ageing (01 March 2023), Alzheimer's Disease Genetics Fact Sheet. https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/alzheimers-disease-genetics-fact-sheet
  4. BMC Geriatrics (18 July 2016), Influence of combined physical and cognitive training on cognition: a systematic review. https://bmcgeriatr.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12877-016-0315-1
  5. Dementia Australia (September 2023), Research into quality dementia care and the best ways of supporting carers provides important insights into improving quality of life of people with dementia, their families and carers. https://www.dementia.org.au/about-dementia/dementia-research/dementia-care
  6. Oxford Academic | The Gerontologist (17 August 2020), Implementing a Reablement Intervention, “Care of People With Dementia in Their Environments (COPE)”: A Hybrid Implementation-Effectiveness Study. https://academic.oup.com/gerontologist/article/61/6/965/5893197

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