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Dementia

The medical community agrees that forgetfulness is not only a part of everyday life, but it is a normal part of certain processes like grieving, and goes away.

Causes for memory loss includes, but are not limited to:

  • Age
  • Poor Concentration
  • Stress
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Disease & Physical Illness
  • Side Effects of Medications
  • Dementia
 Dementia - loss of brain function

Everyone has had moments when they occasionally forget things like keys, names, etc. from time to time. Forgetting is viewed as normal and even adaptive by researchers, freeing neural pathways for new useful information and associations. Memory is also mediated by concentration – and who hasn’t been distracted from time to time? Lapses in attention and other life events can easily explain occasional forgetfulness.

The older you are, the more there is to forget. Additionally, forgetfulness is seen by the medical community as part of the normal aging process. However, when memory problems persist or symptoms start to become abnormal, a physician should be consulted as these signs could signal the onset of MCI or dementia.

Amnestic Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI), also known as incipient dementia, is a condition that’s considered “normal” for their age, although the symptoms are not as severe as Alzheimer’s disease and do not disturb daily function. Signs include, but are not limited to persistence in daily activities such as:

  • Forgetting important events
  • Misplacing objects
  • The inability to recall words

Physicians believe that MCI might be a transitory stage between “normal” memory function and the dementia that characterizes Alzheimer’s disease, as a large percentage of people with MCI go on to develop Alzheimer’s.

Dementia is a degenerative disease that goes beyond forgetfulness, ravishing a person’s memory, reasoning and sense of self. People living with dementia can often find themselves with little awareness of their surrounding, igniting flares of anger, confusion and disorientation (known as a “catastrophic reaction”). As it progresses, personality changes and uninhibited behavior might be observed, such as incontinence. Family, friends, and others may also suffer from the visible, palpable stress of seeing their loved one suffer.

Dementia is considered a syndrome and involves a constellation of signs going beyond memory, and affects daily functioning. Signs include:

  • Persistent forgetfulness
  • Decreased abilities to learn, reason, and remember past experiences
  • Diminished awareness of self and surrounding
  • Difficulty with motor function
  • Agitation
  • Hallucination
  • Loss of patterns of thought, feeling and behavior
  • Confusion & disorientation about time, place and people
  • Changes in mood, behavior and personality

Dementia has a plethora of contributing factors and can come on quickly, as from blunt head trauma, or progress slowly, as with Alzheimer’s and Lewy Body dementia. There are a few types and causes of dementia, including Alzheimer's disease, vascular dementia (such as resulting from a stroke), dementia with Lewy bodies (DLB), mixed dementia as well as other unknown causes. Dementia can be caused from genetics and environment, as well as diet and certain activities.

At the present, there are no known cures for or sure-fire ways to prevent dementia. However, since other types of dementia (eg Vascular dementia) are due in a large part to lifestyle & dietary choices, a few adjustments might go far in protecting your mind.

How It’s Tested

When you decide that your memory problems are persistent and interfere with everyday life, you should see your physician. They’ll take a complete history, including medications used, past incidents and general health.

Your physician may also conduct blood tests to check for vitamin deficiencies, infections or other causes that might contribute to confusion, disorientation and memory loss; imaging tests, such as SPECT or PET to check for structural changes to the brain, such as the results of stroke, blunt trauma, etc.; and mental state assessments, such as the Informant Questionnaire on Cognitive Decline in the Elderly test (IQCODE). A mini mental state examination (MMSE) could be ordered to assess the limit of mental function and levels of dementia.

Dietary Suggestions

Your brain needs a healthy well-rounded diet to strengthen itself against the ravaging effects of dementia. Eating habits that reduce inflammation keep the heart healthy and maintain a steady flow of nutrients that are also believed by the medical community to help promote brain health.

  • Beans & legumes
  • Nuts (eg almonds & cashews)
  • Whole grains
  • Olive oil
  • Cruciferous vegetables (eg broccoli & cauliflower)
  • Omega-3 acids (eg Cold water fish, such as salmon)
  • Pumpkins
  • Berries
  • Cherries
  • Green, leafy vegetables
  • Asparagus
  • Pumpkin & Squash
  • Tomatoes
  • Cinnamon, Tumeric & Cumin
  • Sage
  • Green tea
  • Red wine & dark chocolate in limited amounts

Eliminate as much of these foods and additives from your diet as possible:

  • Alcohol
  • Trans & Saturated fats
  • Sugars
  • Refined Carbohydrates
  • Fast Foods
  • White Bread
  • Saturated Fat
  • High Fat Dairy Products
  • Processed Foods

Activities to Promote Healthy Minds

Exercise your mind. Keeping your mind active with activities may help delay dementia’s onset. Read a book, solve a puzzle or play a fun memory game to keep your mind working.

Education. Continuous education, as well as the pursuit of higher education, has been shown to contain populations more resistant to dementia. Researchers believe that education promotes the formation of strong neural connections that may combat dementia.

Lower your blood pressure. Certain types of dementia have been associated with higher blood pressure. Keeping your blood pressure at normal levels may prevent and delay dementia from developing. Maintain diets that promote low blood pressure, such as eating whole grains and green leafy vegetables.

Quit smoking. Certain researchers believe that smoking may increase your risk of dementia and other vascular conditions.

Moderate Alcohol. Alcohol raises blood pressure, encourages excessive anti-inflammatory effect, and inhibits B12 metabolism. Limiting your alcohol intake to light-to-moderate levels will help prevent the onset of dementia, as well as promote general health.

Keep fit. Exercise and general physical activity promotes overall health, including brain health, by promoting the flow of oxygen to the brain and may lower your risk of developing dementia. Exercise 20-30 minutes for 5 days a week to keep your body fit.

Keep connected. Social contact promotes well-being as well as exercising multiple cognitive function… helping reduce the risk of developing dementia. Go to outings and keeping in touch with friends and loved ones to keep connected with the social world.

Maintain a healthy diet. A diet rich in fruits, vegetables and omega-3 fatty acids may promote overall health and lower your risk of developing dementia.

Protect your Head.
Head trauma is known to be a contributing factor to the structural changes that may precede or cause dementia. Reducing or eliminating activities that involve head contact, like football or boxing, as well as wearing a helmet when you bike can go far in keeping your head and mind safe.

Living with Dementia. However, if you or a loved one has dementia, there are certain steps you can take to help cope:

Establish simplified routines. Leave notes and memory aids to help you stick to those routines.

Memory aids. Provide regular information about times, places, people around in key areas as notes, in calendars or other memos. Carrying a smart phone with regular alerts can be another option for those with tech-savvy caretakers.

Sensory stimulation. Engaging all of the 5 senses can help reduce agitation and restlessness. Have them pick up a hobby, create art, watch a stimulating movie, eat a variety of foods or even simply touch something interesting.

Reminiscence therapy. Engage their long-term memory and bring it out into the present. Reminding them about past experiences can help keep those memories fresh

Therapy. Cognitive-behavior therapy (or talk therapy), behavioral therapy (to help eliminate certain problematic behaviors like wandering) and pet therapy (keeping care of pets) are current methods to combat the degenerative effects of dementia.

Often, people living with dementia will need assistance with daily living.   

Top Natural Supplements to Help with Dementia

Although there is no known cure for dementia, several supplements, listed below, have had some success in research and colloquial settings in preventing or delaying the onset of dementia.

  • Acetyl-carnitine
  • Ginkgo
  • Huperzine A
  • Idebenone
  • Lemon Balm
  • Curcumin
  • Phosphatidyl Serine
  • Saffron
  • Sage
  • Vinpocetine
  • Vitamin E
  • Vitamin B12
  • Vitamin B6
  • Folic Acid
  • Omega-3 Fatty Acids
  • Coenzyme Q10

Another approach is supportive products that promote stem cells and other systemic factors that degrade stem cell niches.

*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.

 

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