Because dementia symptoms can be caused by any number of conditions, obtaining an accurate diagnosis is critical for management and treatment. The sooner you address the problem, the better, so make an appointment with your doctor right away.
Your doctor can assess your personal risk factors, evaluate your symptoms, offer tips on healthy lifestyle adjustments, and help you obtain appropriate care.
When dementia symptoms appear suddenly, it is critical to seek medical attention. Conditions such as stroke, drug interactions, tumors, and seizures should be treated immediately. Timely intervention may also control or eliminate symptoms from other physical and psychological factors.
Recent research suggests that healthy lifestyle habits and mental stimulation may prevent dementia altogether or at least delay its onset. Just as physical exercise keeps you physically fit, exercising your mind and memory can help you stay mentally sharp, no matter how old you are. These strategies can help reduce your risk of dementia.
1. Regular exercise. Starting a regular exercise routine, including cardio and strength training, may reduce your risk of developing dementia by up to 50 percent.
2. Social engagement. The more you connect face-to-face with others, the stronger your memory and cognition is likely to be.
3. Healthy diet. Brain-healthy eating habits can help reduce inflammation, protect neurons, and promote better communication between brain cells.
4. Mental stimulation. By continuing to learn new things and challenge your brain, you can strengthen your cognitive skills and stay mentally sharp.
5. Quality sleep. Getting quality sleep can flush out brain toxins and avoid the build-up of damaging plaques.
6. Stress management. Unchecked stress takes a heavy toll on the brain, shrinking a key memory area, hampering nerve cell growth, and worsening dementia symptoms.
“I thought my life was over. I knew about dementia but I never thought it could happen to me.” This sentiment reflects the fear, disbelief, and dismay many people experience after a dementia diagnosis. While dealing with dementia is a major life challenge, the above pillars of dementia prevention can be used to help slow the onset of more debilitating dementia symptoms. You can also use the following guidelines to help ease your journey and preserve your way of life:
Emotional connection can make a positive difference. As you deal with dementia symptoms, make sure you get the emotional support you need. Turn to close family members and friends, join a dementia support group, or talk to a therapist, counselor, or clergyman.
Make important decisions early. Avoid future medical, financial, and legal confusion by communicating your wishes and creating a plan. Discuss and document treatment and end-of-life preferences with your doctors and family members. Create a Living Will and appoint someone you trust to make decisions for you in case you can no longer make them for yourself. Although these conversations may be difficult, making your wishes known can also be empowering.
Watch for treatable changes. Depression, sleep disturbances, and medication interactions can make dementia symptoms worse and limit independence. Treating them may require some experimentation with lifestyle changes and medication, but can be well worth the effort.
Create a dementia-friendly environment. Preserve your health and autonomy for as long as possible by taking simple actions: encourage memories with pictures and familiar objects; remove tripping hazards; increase lighting; and organize a caregiving network. Planning and flexibility can keep you one step ahead of your changing needs.
Savor positive experiences. Even when dementia is at an advanced stage and you sense your mind may be half-gone, try to see it as half-present. With appropriate support and understanding, people with dementia are still capable of experiencing and providing enjoyment and connection—even through the final stages of the disease.