Around 1.6 million Germans suffer from dementia. Researchers have been investigating how the disease can be prevented for decades. FOCUS Online about the possibilities of influencing the risk of dementia.
First of all, dementia is not just dementia. The disease has many faces. Depending on the form, prevention is better or worse. According to the current state of science, we are simply powerless against some species. Especially since the biggest risk factor for dementia is old age – and as is well known, that cannot be stopped.
Nevertheless, what harms your body can also harm the brain. So you can at least counteract vascular dementia by paying attention to the following things:
A study from Sweden established a connection between professional activity and the risk of developing dementia. According to the researchers, a job that is “cognitively stimulating”, includes “demanding tasks” and allows a “high degree of decision-making leeway” has a positive effect on the brain and thus also on the risk of dementia.
The following biological mechanism could be behind this: If the brain is only slightly stimulated, more plasma proteins are released than with high stimulation. These damage the brain because they prevent new connections from forming between brain cells.
According to current knowledge, the so-called Mediterranean diet, also known as the Mediterranean diet, is ideal for the heart and brain. The menu mainly consists of fruit, vegetables, wholegrain and dairy products, olive oil, fresh herbs, and little red meat, with fish and chicken instead. Australian researchers came to the conclusion that this diet can also specifically reduce the risk of dementia.
Advocates of the Mediterranean diet recommend a glass of red wine every now and then. It shouldn’t be more than that though. Heavy alcohol consumption can damage the brain. Scientists from Stockholm confirm this connection. Subjects who drank alcohol less than once a month suffered from memory problems only half as often as subjects who drank more frequently.
A study from Finland suggests that sweating in the sauna could also help prevent dementia. The researchers studied around 2,300 men. Those who took a sauna four to seven times a week had a 66 percent lower risk of dementia compared to sauna avoiders.
Australian scientists recommend two and a half hours of exercise per week to significantly slow down memory loss. The University of Melbourne team studied a small group of 138 participants, all over the age of 50. At the beginning of the study, the participants suffered from memory problems, but did not yet have pathological dementia. At the end of the study, they could remember much better.
Researchers from Argentina report that stress can promote degradation processes in the brain and thus lead to Alzheimer’s. They found that 78 of the 107 Alzheimer’s patients examined were suffering from severe mental stress, such as the death of a relative, experiences of violence or accidents.
Smokers have twice the risk of dementia as non-smokers. This is the result of a long-term study with more than 21,000 US citizens. If you want to prevent dementia, you should therefore give up smoking.
Dementia is a generic term for various clinical pictures, all of which are related to the loss of mental function. About 60 to 70 percent of all those affected develop Alzheimer’s. Other common forms are vascular or vascular dementia, dementia associated with Parkinson’s disease and Lewy body disease.
Depending on the type, forgetfulness has different triggers. And depending on the trigger, the form of dementia can be better or worse prevented with a change in lifestyle. The tips mentioned do not always help to reduce the risk of disease.
Vascular or vascular-related dementia develops as a result of brain damage, for example after a stroke. If a region of the brain is not supplied with sufficient blood, nerve cells die. The result: dementia. Certain risk factors that promote a stroke also increase the risk of dementia: heavy alcohol consumption, smoking, lack of exercise and obesity, constant stress, diabetes and high blood pressure. In this case, the best way to reduce risk is to actively reduce it.
In this form of dementia, so-called plaques are deposited in the brain. They destroy the contacts between the nerve cells and cause them to die off. In addition, the deposits block acetylcholine, an important messenger substance that transmits information in the brain. Plaques are also responsible for Lewy body dementia. Experts still don’t know what exactly causes the deposits and how Alzheimer’s can be prevented.
About two percent of all Alzheimer’s patients suffer from a hereditary form. In them, mutations in the genes presenilin 1 and 2 are responsible for the onset of the disease, reports the Munich Alzheimer Society. While most Alzheimer’s patients become ill over the age of 65, the symptoms of familial Alzheimer’s disease usually appear between the ages of 35 and 60.
We typically associate Parkinson’s with trembling hands and an unsteady gait. But the disease does not only affect the areas of the brain that control our motor skills. A third of all patients in the late Parkinson’s stage also develop dementia. Scientists have not yet been able to fully clarify the triggers for Parkinson’s. They suspect that several factors interact: a genetic defect, a certain age and a disturbance between the nerve cells and the growth factor GDNF.