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6 ways to reduce the risk of dementia

There is no way to prevent all types of dementia; however, having a healthy lifestyle and managing chronic conditions help improve overall health and reduce the risk.

Studies suggest that about a third of dementia cases might be delayed or prevented by addressing potentially modifiable risk factors.Reference1Reference2Reference3

 

Treat hypertension

Hypertension can affect brain function by damaging blood vessels. Early treatment can reduce the risk of vascular dementia.

Continue your education

Education maintains an individual’s cognitive reserve — one’s resistance to damage of the brain.

Get regular physical activity

Exercise helps to improve balance and mood, reduce falls and improve overall function.

Maintain social engagement

Regular social activity has been shown to help improve thinking, concentration, memory skills and mood.

Reduce or eliminate smoking

Neurotoxins in cigarettes can harm the brain and lead to poor cardiovascular health, which is linked to cognitive decline.

Manage other conditions

Chronic conditions like hearing loss, depression, diabetes and obesity increase the risk of dementia.

Drugs in dementia treatment

  • There is currently no cure for dementia; however, there are medications that help with dementia symptoms.
  • Health Canada has approved 4 drugs to improve cognition in dementia patients: donepezil, rivastigmine, galantamine and memantine. Donepezil, rivastigmine and galantamine are known as “cholinesterase inhibitors” and are prescribed for mild to moderate dementia. Memantine is one of a group of drugs called NMDA (n-methyl-D-aspartate) receptor antagonists and is prescribed for moderate to severe dementia.
  • These drugs do not cure or slow the progression of the disease. Rather, they improve cognition (including memory, orientation and language) and function (including performance of daily activities).
  • Medications to treat other symptoms or conditions, such as psychosis, depression, sleep disturbances or agitation, may also be prescribed.
  • In 2015–2016, a total of 23,375 seniors living with dementia in Newfoundland and Labrador, Prince Edward Island, Manitoba, Alberta and British Columbia were prescribed the drugs listed above, according to CIHI’s National Prescription Drug Utilization Information System. This is about 23.7% of all seniors living with dementia in these provinces, down from 28.0% in 2011–2012.

Non-pharmacological treatments such as social activity, music and cognitive therapies have also proven to be helpful in managing challenging behaviours and symptoms. These approaches can improve well-being and quality of life for seniors with dementia as well as for their caregivers.Reference2