Monday, January 16, 2012

Dementia, the facts

Hi everyone,
For some reason we tend to not think of dementia as being a mental illness. I think this will change. Dementia (a more general category) is a result of something gone wrong in the brain. The result is a person is severely disturbed in the area of the intellect, the emotions and the will. This sounds very much like mental illness. At Heartfelt Ministries we do help (usually by a referral), persons who have dementia. We also provide family support. Please read a piece from the highly esteemed John Hopkins is below.

Advice to Keep Dementia at Bay

Recently, researchers looking into cognitive decline and dementia have made encouraging findings. Although it was believed that the adult brain could not develop new neurons (or brain cells), scientists have learned in the past decade or so that the human brain is pliable and adaptive. The brain can actually add new neurons even late in life and continually form new connections among existing neurons -- a phenomenon known as neuroplasticity.

This means that while an aging brain may have signs of damage, it can often compensate for them, at least initially. And engaging in mentally stimulating activities like reading, taking a class or playing board games is one way to bolster this process.

This compensation process
depends on your "cognitive reserve," the extra, perhaps unused, amount of cognitive ability that can make up for the loss of brain functioning when your brain shows signs of dementia due to the death of cells and their replacement by beta-amyloid plaques. Genetics, early childhood stimulation and education level can influence cognitive reserve but are essentially immutable once you're an adult.

Fortunately, studies have found that you can also increase your cognitive reserve and delay the onset of dementia through a variety of intellectually stimulating leisure activities in middle and later life.

You can delay Demnetia

A study in the journal Neurology, for example, found that among 101 people who eventually developed dementia, those who frequently participated in one or more activities, such as reading, writing, doing crossword puzzles, playing card or board games, having group discussions or playing music experienced memory decline more than one year later than those who participated in these activities less often. These pursuits built cognitive reserve and delayed dementia as much as a higher education level did.

T.V. is too much of a passive activity.

It's worth noting that researchers have discovered that watching television is a passive activity that doesn't really stimulate your mind at all; on the contrary, watching television is associated with an increased risk of cognitive decline. One study found that TV watchers were 10 percent more likely than nonwatchers to experience cognitive impairments over a five-year period. A possible explanation: Time spent in front of the TV means less time for the mental, social and physical activities that can help delay dementia.

Posted in on January 9, 2012