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Preventing or delaying dementia – what’s new?

Can we prevent dementia? Can we slow it down? Here are the latest reports and thinking about the progress being made in slowing down the onset of dementia.

A 10-year study has come up with lifestyle advice for dementia prevention – and there are no surprises in there: a healthy diet; regular exercise; active social contact; cognitive activity; non-smoking; and not drinking alcohol.

Reading for pleasure can help preserve memory skills as we age, according to psychology researchers. They explain that leisure reading can help build the mental abilities that reading requires, such as episodic memory – remembering what has happened so far in a book and making sense of an ongoing story – and working memory that helps us keep track as we read. Compared to a group that focused on word puzzles, the readers in the study showed greater improvement in both episodic and working memory.

Hearing aids and cochlear implants can reduce the risk of developing dementia by slowing down cognitive decline, such as memory loss, according to research publicised by Alzheimer’s Research UK. Using such aids reduced long-term cognitive decline by 19% and improved cognitive abilities. The reasons for the link between hearing and cognitive decline is yet to be thoroughly understood.

Two of the compounds that reduce the build up of plaque in the brain, which contributes to the development of Alzheimer’s, can be found in green tea and red wine, according to a new study. Other promising compounds include curcumin from turmeric, the diabetes drug Metformin, and a compound called citicoline. As ever, the researchers warn that these may not work for every patient, and that people should always consult their medical advisers before drastically changing their diets.

US research has found that taking the common Type 2 diabetes medication known as TZDs can cut the risk of Alzheimer’s by a fifth. The findings open the door for repurposing the drug to fight Alzheimer’s.

Meanwhile latest research on diet and dementia suggests that contrary to previous studies there is no evidence that healthy eating – in particular a Mediterranean diet – reduced the risk of dementia. However, the researchers think there may have been an element of misreporting by participants in this long-term study.

A new drug called lecanemab hit the headlines recently, hailed as a huge new step forward in treating Alzheimer’s disease. Behind the headlines there are many issues still to be addressed, and while it’s a positive development, it’s not a miracle cure.

Researchers think they have identified early signs of dementia. Theoretically picking up on the clues up to nine years before diagnosis could provide an opportunity for intervention and select individuals for clinical trials. The pointers include problem solving, reaction times, remembering lists of numbers, remembering to do things later, and pair matching. The research comes with the caveat that having trouble with these tasks doesn’t immediately mean dementia is on the horizon, but anyone worried should consult their GP.

Want to understand more about dementia? There’s a free online training course, known as a MOOC, which is well worth considering.

This article is a summary of recently reported research. If you have any health concerns, please consult your health professional for expert advice.

Photo by Christin Hume on Unsplash

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Joy Smerdon
Joy Smerdon
1 year ago

I would like to enter the dementia survey but my verification won’t progress. I t won’t allow me to enter a password. Joy

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