Small Actions Big Difference, Dementia Australia, 2018.
Dementia Awareness Month is Dementia Australia’s national awareness-raising campaign held every year throughout September. For more information head to dementia.org.au
Today, and every day in Australia alone, 250 people will join those already on a “this is the rest of my life” journey with dementia. To provide a prelude to the exponential nature of the growth of prevalence of dementia, it is estimated that in 40 years’ time, when many of you reading this might anticipate being octogenarians, it will be 650 new people per day, every day. These numbers add up very quickly. They are a call to ACTION.
ACTION PLAN ONE: How do we try to minimise the number of people embarking on this complex journey with dementia?
ACTION PLAN TWO: If unavoidable, how do we make the journey as vibrant, full of meaning, and brimming with quality as possible?
ACTION PLAN ONE
What are we all going to do today? What works best is a whole brain, whole body approach. Neuroscientist and author of ‘Still Alice’ (now a poignant motion picture), Lisa Genova explains.
There is readily available, readable and fun, advice from many international teams of experts. The risk reduction recommendations they make, only some of which are explored below, are not just valid as preventative measures for Dementia, they lower your risk of other chronic disease and are also beneficial to pursue following a diagnosis.
ACTIVELY improve your cardiovascular health.
The blood supply to your brain is an intricate network of VIP’s: Very Important Pathways. The brain demands a lot of oxygen and energy rich blood as neurons are more sensitive to deprivation of these resources than other cells in your body. Keeping your brain healthy means keeping these vessels clean and efficient, while supplying within them the best possible dose of oxygen and nutrients. Dementia Australia outlines in ‘Food For Life’ that a healthy Mediterranean diet, rich in omega 3 and antioxidants, is recommended.
Find a physical ACTIVITY you like, and do it more.
Are you a dancer or a hiker? Or do you dance along the scenic trail? Do you like to sail or swim? Is there something about unicycle hockey that really gets you going? It does not matter how you like to move, your small action (with a big difference) is to do it. Move anyway you like, more than you did last week, make it a habit of daily doing.
ACT with the help of your GP or Naturopath, share your ACTION plan with them.
Cholesterol levels are routinely checked, even from younger ages, because of the widely known risk factors for chronic disease. Even Fabio ‘can’t believe’ how much evidence there is to support lowering cholesterol. But when was the last time anyone had their homocysteine levels checked? Elevated homocysteine is a causative risk factor for dementia that has been researched for at least 20 years. What is so remarkable about it is that homocysteine levels can be lowered simply through treatment with B vitamins.
Be an ACTIVIST with those you love, understand your Family tree.
As the human genome unfurls so too does the complexity of what we feel we inherit. We worry about what we may carry and what we may pass on. On our 22 tiny chromosomes is carried a beautiful blueprint for us. Most recently in Alzheimer’s research, fascination with number 19 and the Apolipoprotein E gene, has uncovered varying correlations with low and high risk, but not yet explicit enough to pinpoint a genetic protection or cause. The very rare Familial Alzheimer’s Disease (FAD) is a mutation on one of three genes that, if inherited, can mean the individual embarks on a journey with early onset Alzheimer’s. This, and other rare forms of dementia, will often be known to Families. Should you or a loved one have concerns, or any questions, the National Dementia Helpline Australia has all-encompassing contact options.
Value social connections and social ACTUALITIES, prioritise them.
The rich lustre that we prize in the pearl of life is our deep connection to others. The exceptional value of this is never lost, even if our memories happen to fade. Get off your device and get into real experiences with wonder-filled people. Regardless of your age your active participation and full engagement in social activity, particularly doing things together that are creative, interactive, stimulating and make you laugh, may prove beneficial to minimise development of dementia.
ACTIVATE your cognitive reserve
‘Brain Fitness Programs show evidence for gains in memory’, I quote: Michael Merzenich, co-founder of Posit Science and Brain HQ, well regarded Neuroscientist whose insights are captured in ‘The Brain That Changes Itself’ by Norman Doidge. Michael encourages individuals to get curious about being curious, to be inspired embark on your ‘life-long learning’ journey right now. Make as many ‘back-up connections’ in your neural networks as you can. Build brilliant brain resilience. If you don’t know where to start, we can show you how.
ACTUALLY, when the time is right, every night, cease ACTING – get deep sleep!
Major brain clean up happens when you sleep. A nightly sweep through that is vital for brain health. We have some great information regarding sleep upcoming on Neuroknowledge.
Developing understanding of Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI) and Dementia has resulted in innovative brain-based treatments that target the changes in the brain. The Perth Brain Centre has been helping people with brain based challenges for over 10 years and have a caring team of health professionals including occupational therapists, nurses and psychologists. We understand the complexity of your, and perhaps your Families, unique situation, and there is no “one size fits all” approach to successful treatment. Perth Brain Centre also values a proactive approach to long-term brain health. Detailed assessments, including special brain scans called QEEG, help to guide effective treatment programmes.
For further information about how brain-based treatments can help you or someone you know please contact The Perth Brain Centre (08) 65003277 or www.perthbraincentre.com.au.
About the author - Emily Goss, OT. Senior Clinician, The Perth Brain Centre.