Protect your brain, delay and prevent dementia

For families and physicians caring for the elderly, memory impairment — ranging from benign forgetfulness to clinical dementia including Alzheimer’s disease — can be frustrating.

Moderate dementia symptoms targeting Activities of Daily Living can be reduced for at least six months by pharmaceutical intervention; however decades of data determined dementia cannot be reversed. But can it be prevented?

Somewhat.

All major clinical data on dementia compiled by Neurologists and Internists at Kaiser Permanente in Washington and UC Davis California shows no benefit for any medication or supplements in preventing dementia or stopping decline in patients with mild impairment. They have found benefit in stopping medications interfering with brain function — a side effect of numerous prescription medications. Further, clinical science proves only harm by supplements, such as vitamin E and Gingko Biloba, which can cause hemorrhagic strokes.

What prevents dementia? The brain seems to be a “use it or lose it” organ. Repeatedly shown protective is education: the more formal education one receives, the lower the dementia risk. Lifelong learning is protective — a college class doesn’t need to lead to a degree to help your brain. Frequent socialization is protective — gathering for church, games, concerts or other community events can help.

Be well-rounded. Physical activity, whether solo or in a group setting, is protective. Ensuring optimal input to your brain is important — vision correction is important. Recently neurologists found that simply wearing a hearing aid to improve audiometric input can protect against dementia.

While dementia cannot be reversed, it can be delayed or prevented. Stopping the numerous drugs and supplements that can only harm your brain is a start — your physician can help with that. Supplements claiming to supports brain function can only hurt you. Dementia protection comes from daily challenges to your brain — make your brain form new connections.

Allan P. Frank, MD MS

Assistant Clinical Professor

MSU College of Human Medicine