ASK DR. MINDY™
MINDY KIM-MILLER, MD, PhD
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I have been caring for my parents for nearly a year now in their home. Mother has dementia and Dad is just old. Actually, they are both 89. Mom is allergic to all medication so we only can get through this. She is paranoid, will not allow help in the home (she even kicks me out on a weekly basis!) and does not like visitors, music, TV, etc. She threatens suicide regularly. A nursing facility would be tantamount to signing her death certificate. Her sight, even with glasses, is very poor so reading is out. She falls regularly, but so far no broken bones. The question is this: Mom is one of seven children, all but one has/had this condition. I guess one might say that my brother and I are pre-disposed. After being with her, there is no way I want to put my children through this. Is there anything we can do NOW to head off this potential problem? I’d appreciate any advice we can get.–M.F.
Unfortunately there is no way to alter one’s genetic predisposition to Alzheimer’s disease at this time. However, there are things you can do to try to delay the onset of the disease or slow its progression, if not prevent it.
Many studies have shown that exercise can prevent age-related memory loss. This may be because exercise improves blood circulation to the brain, making more oxygen and nutrients available and taking away more toxins and waste products. Mental exercise is also critical. The saying, “Use it or lose it,” is true in this case. It is important to exercise your brain every day by learning something new or doing activities that require concentration. Additionally, if you have a high level of education, you have already reduced your risk of Alzheimer’s compared to someone with less education. Some researchers theorize that using your brain may increase your “brain reserve” so that the brain damage caused by Alzheimer’s may not produce noticeable symptoms until a lot of damage has occurred. There are also some products on the market that may improve memory and prevent memory loss through mental exercise and stimulation.
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