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Updated: September 30, 2011 00:41 IST

Live healthy, keep dementia away

Ramya Kannan
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Did you know that there are a number of modifiable risk factors for dementia? Well, there are. And if you make the effort to lead a healthy life, then it certainly is possible to keep dementia at bay.

Dementia is usually defined as a chronic and progressive deterioration of behaviour and higher intellectual function due to organic brain disease. It is marked by memory disorders, changes in personality, deterioration in personal care, impaired reasoning, and disorientation. According to the Dementia India Report, 2010, it mainly affects older people; only 2 per cent of cases start before the age of 65 years. After this, the prevalence doubles with every five year increment in age. Dementia is one of the major causes of disability in late-life.

Though the involvement of non-modifiable risk factors, such as age and family history, is certain, evidence is now emerging that prevention of certain diseases offers protection against dementia to individuals. It was to spread awareness on these possibilities that National Dementia Awareness Week was held during September 18 and 24.

E.S. Krishnamoorthy, Senior Consultant, Clinical Neurology & Neuropsychiatry, says there is now no doubt that control/prevention of diabetes, hypertension, and obesity will have a positive impact in preventing onset of dementia. Maintaining a diet high in anti-oxidants, low in fat content, specific vitamins (B and C), supplemented with physical exercise are recommended.

Alcohol abuse, another risk factor, can also be avoided. It is equally important to maintain good sexual health as various sexual illnesses, right from syphilis up to HIV, are known to be risk factors, Dr. Krishnamoorthy explains.

The Alzheimer's and Related Disorders Society of India (ARDSI) in its report stressed that a public health model could be used to prevent dementia. “There is some evidence from studies with other chronic diseases like hypertension and diabetes that prevention programmes for vascular disorders and risk factors would possibly help in dementia prevention too,” the report says.

It would also be helpful to engage oneself in cognitive activities – such as puzzles, chess, Sudoku and crossword, Dr. Krishnamoorthy adds. This is of importance, particularly in the peri-retirement years. Also learning something new, getting a new hobby, for instance, is equal to challenging one's intellect and is thought to be protective.

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