How to prevent and treat Dementia
-For Living a Better Cognitive Life
Taking off from where we left earlier- Memory loss Part 1 and Part 2 – we now move on to the prevention and treatment of memory loss or Dementia. Treatment of dementia with full recovery is difficult, but prevention is very much possible.
I recommend that you read this article till the end. To know if you are at risk for getting dementia, assess your risk by using this article
As we proceed, I will come to this risk assessment in detail.
Before we do that, let’s see what the numbers say about Dementia worldwide and that in India specifically.
What is the state of affairs regarding Dementia/ Alzheimer’s disease in India?
According to the World Health Organization, worldwide
- Worldwide, around 50 million people have dementia, and there are nearly 10 million new cases every year.
- Out of the total, about 60 to 70% are that of Alzheimer’s disease.
In India, research shows that 5 to 6% of the older adults aged 65 to 70 years suffer from memory loss and progress to Alzheimer’s disease.
Alzheimer’s Disease is the most common type of Dementia and about 5-6% of people in the age group of 65-70 years in India suffer from this problem.
That is why it is very much important to study more about Dementia, even as the whole world is grappling with the scourge of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Click this link here to know more.
How to know whether you are going in for Dementia?
Are there any early signs/ symptoms of dementia? Yes, definitely, a few tell-tale signs which indicate that you or your loved one is going in for Dementia. These are as follows:-
- Failing to remember appointments;
- Forgetting where you have kept your things like important documents, keys, etc.;
- Can’t remember having taken his or her meals- this may occur a few minutes of just having one’s meal;
- Disturbed sleep- a person may get up in the middle of the night and feel as if he has overslept;
As a General Physician, I usually use the GPCOG test method to decide the Risk of Dementia in a patient. Click here to more about GPCOG
Click this link here to know more about the cause of dementia in India.The good physician treats the disease; the great physician treats the patient who has the disease -William Osler Click To Tweet
Prevention of Dementia-
Can we prevent or delay the onset of dementia? Yes, certainly we can. Before we proceed, I would like you to read this beautiful story about caring for your parents if they have dementia.
Now, back to preventing dementia- read on-
1.Eating right- The Diet
The food that we eat has its effect on almost all parts of the body. E.g., –
- Eating foods rich in saturated fats or trans fats are not good for the heart(link) and can increase cholesterol levels ( link)
- A high protein diet is detrimental to chronic kidney disease( kidney failure) and gouty arthritis.
- Alcohol binging can lead to liver cirrhosis and the loss of memory(Wernicke- Korsakoff disease).
All the above eating habits can also speed up memory loss. The picture below shows what to avoid and what to eat
Daily consumption of nitrate-rich vegetables such as spinach and swiss chard may prove invaluable in the prevention of neurodegenerative diseases such as dementia and Alzheimers-(Source-Medium.com)
2. Control blood pressure well if you are under treatment
Hypertension( link) is a primary cause of Silent Stroke in many people ( we will discuss this in a separate article). If you are undergoing treatment for high BP, be regular to avoid silent stroke s it can also lead to loss of memory.
3. Control your blood sugar if you are a diabetic
Long-term Diabetes causes many complications if not controlled well. One of them is a Stroke. A stroke can damage the memory center in the brain. Those who control their blood sugar well can avoid this complication and memory loss.
4. Regular exercise-
Exercise is something which keeps one fit in life from all angles, namely-
- It helps burn fats, thereby reducing blood cholesterol, which may be causing narrowing of arteries in the brain
- Keep your heart ticking
- Improve joint health, especially the knees, and keep you running
- Maintain your body weight
All these points above also help improve the overall health of the brain- the seat of memory.
5. Avoid head injury-
Head injuries are known to cause loss of memory by-
- Direct injury to the brain causing sometimes irreparable damage
- The pooling of blood below the skull and compressing the brain
Most of the head injuries occur in vehicular accidents, more so in two-wheeler accidents. Sometimes a fall on the head while climbing or getting down the stairs, mostly in older people, can cause similar effects in a vehicular accident.
6. Taking medicines-
Patients suspected to be going in for memory loss will have to take medicines that can slow down or halt the progress of dementia. These are discussed in detail in the section below. The patient’s family members have to be very regular and prompt while giving medications to ensure that the progress of dementia is arrested.
7. Stop taking Narcotic drugs-
Drugs like cannabis, LSD, etc., can cause dementia. If any family member or your relatives or friends are on to drugs, do your best to wean them off by counseling them or admitting them to a De-addiction center.
To know more about the prevention of dementia, read here- link.
Now that we know how to prevent Dementia let’s move on to the treatment part. Read on-
Treatment of Dementia- Medications
Before we proceed to treatment with medicines, let us briefly recollect about the sites in the brain which is concerned for memory storage and/or memory loss- the seat of memory>>this picture-
We should now concentrate on the Temporal part of the brain, which gets affected by dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
In the temporal region, we have a part called the Limbic System, which contains these areas-
Some medicines work on the limbic system, particularly the hippocampus. Now we can proceed with knowing what medicines are effective and when.
There are 2 major types of memory loss-have a look at this diagram-
The treatment is based on which type of memory loss a person has.
There are a variety of medicines
- Halt the progress
- Control signs and symptoms
- Improve memory
In this article, I will only highlight
Treatment of Dementia-Medicines
to halt the progress
Dementia typically progresses from Mild Cognitive Impairment to full-fledged Alzheimer’s disease. There is no particular drug to prevent or halt this progress. However, there are few medicines to slow down cognitive impairment, and they are as follows:-
- Donepezil[ Donep]
- Galantamine[ Galamer]
- Rivastigmine[ Rivamer]
- Memantine[ Admenta]
These medicines are available in different strengths and combinations depending on the stages or severity of the disease. However, one should not self-prescribe these drugs and be taken strictly under a neuropsychiatrist’s supervision.
Treatment of Dementia-Medicines
to Control the Signs and symptoms
Treatment of Dementia also includes some medicines to treat underlying conditions such as Depression, Irritability, Anxiety, Restlessness, Sleeplessness, Tremors of hands, etc. These are some of the medicines-
- Alprazolam[ Restyl,Trika,Alprax]-for sleep disturbance
- Levodopa[Syndopa]-for tremulousness
- Anti-depressant and ani-anxiolytics like-Mirtaz, Pexep, Prodep, Nexito, etc.
Again, these medications are to be taken strictly under the supervision of a Neuropsychiatrist.
Treatment of Dementia-Medicines
to improve Memory
Your Family Physician can prescribe these medications. They are namely-
- Ginkgo Biloba[Gingkocer Plus]
- Piracetam[ Cognix]
- Ayurvedic medicine like Brahmi and Shankhapushpi( Memorin capsules).
The above medicines are useful in Mild Cognitive Impairment. They can improve memory by halting or partially reversing the progress of dementia.
In India, we are blessed with a low rate of Dementia. Read here to know why India has the lowest rate of dementia.
Here are some useful links for the care and the treatment of dementia of the elderly in India:-
2.Link:- Evexius Healthcare
3.Link:- Samarth Eldercare
Before we wind up, I would recommend you all to-
Memory loss due to Silent Stroke
To know memory loss due to Silent Stroke, we should understand what happens in a stroke. This will be discussed in a separate article in the coming days.
In the meantime, you can learn to calculate your risk of getting a stroke by clicking on the link given below.
Stroke Risk Calculator