TECH 5 for April 10, 2014 – Dementia

ben-harrison-213x300Good afternoon and welcome to another Tech 5 program and a five minute trip into the amazing world of technology. This is Ben Harrison.

A huge amount of research and technology, costing hundreds of millions of dollars is being invested each year in searching for causes, treatment and cures of conditions and diseases that affect millions of people each year. Dementia and its related conditions is one of those conditions.

Dementia is a serious loss of cognitive ability in a previously unimpaired person, beyond what might be expected from normal aging. It may be the result of a brain injury, or progressive, resulting in long-term decline due to damage or disease in the body. Although dementia is far more common in the older population (affecting about 5% of those over 65 it can earlier and is termed early onset dementia.

Dementia is not merely a problem of memory. It reduces the ability to learn reason, retain or recall past experience and there is also loss of patterns of thoughts, feelings and activities. As dementia worsens individuals may neglect themselves and may become incontinent, disorganized, and restless or show inappropriate behaviour. Some become restless or wander about by day and sometimes at night. A common symptom of dementia is for sufferers to not recognize friends or even relatives in their immediate family.

Until the end of the 19th century, the term dementia included mental illness. Dementia at this time referred to anyone who had lost the ability to reason, and was applied equally to psychosis, “organic” diseases like syphilis that destroy the brain, and to the dementia associated with old age, which was attributed to “hardening of the arteries.”

One of the earliest known accounts was by the 7th century BC physician and mathematician Pythagoras, who divided the human lifespan into six distinct phases, beginning respectively at birth. The last two he described as the “senium”, a period of mental and physical decay, with the final phase being where the mind is reduced to the imbecility of infancy”

Aristotle and Plato both spoke of the mental decay of advanced age, but apparently simply viewed it as an inevitable process that affected all old men and which nothing could be done to prevent.

The Roman statesman Cicero held a view that loss of mental function was not inevitable in the elderly and “affected only those old men who were weak-willed”. He spoke of how those who remained mentally active and eager to learn new things could stave off dementia.

Byzantine physicians sometimes wrote of dementia, and it is recorded that at least seven emperors whose lifespan exceeded the age of 70 displayed signs of cognitive decline.

Otherwise, little is recorded about senile dementia in Western medical texts for nearly 1700 years. One of the few references to it was the 13th century friar Roger Bacon, who viewed old age as divine punishment for original sin.

Poets, playwrights, and other writers however made frequent allusions to the loss of mental function in old age. Shakespeare notably mentions it in some of his plays including Hamlet and King Lear.

One of the most common forms of dementia is Alzheimer’s disease. Worldwide, 35.6 million people have dementia and there are 7.7 million new cases every year. There is much ongoing research on the subject of dementia, and there’s a lot you can do to reduce your risk of dementia?

It is important to keep the brain healthy and active, just like the rest of the body. Increasing evidence links a socially involved, physically active and mentally challenging lifestyle to improving brain function and helping to reduce the risk of developing dementia, or slowing the progression of the disease.

So what can be done to improve brain health?

  1. The first step is to move! What’s good for the heart is also good for the brain. Less than half of older adults get the recommended 2 ½ hours of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity per week. In older adults without Alzheimer’s disease, those who were very physically active were 38 percent less likely to develop the disease than those who were inactive.
  2. For people with the disease, regular physical activity leads to a significant reduction in depression, increased independence and improved quality of life.
  3. Socializing also helps improve connections between brain cells. Unfortunately, people living with

Dementia often feels isolated because of the stigma associated with the disease. Keeping social connections throughout life is important for brain health.

  1. Eating a healthy diet, keeps the whole body, including the brain, healthy.

Whether you are six or sixty, it’s important to understand that you CAN do something about dementia by taking steps to improve brain health. Because a healthy brain both prevents the risk of getting a dementia and provides a cognitive boost right now.