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Dementia: Not Inevitable with Aging, Says Alzheimer Society Niagara Director

Sarah Putman, director of the Alzheimer Society Niagara Region, highlights that dementia is not a normal part of aging, stressing the importance of brain health and preventive measures. New research further challenges the notion that genetics are the sole cause of the condition.

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BNN Correspondents
New Update
Dementia: Not Inevitable with Aging, Says Alzheimer Society Niagara Director

On a recent evening at the RiverBrink Art Museum in Queenston, Sarah Putman, director of education and quality for the Alzheimer Society Niagara Region, took to the stage. Her mission: to shatter the prevalent misconception that dementia is a natural part of aging. As the audience listened intently, she outlined the importance of brain health and shared practical tips to potentially reduce or delay the onset of dementia by up to 40 percent.

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Preventive Measures

Putman's preventive measures encompassed a broad spectrum of lifestyle choices. She stressed the importance of physical activity, heart health, social engagement, managing medical conditions, mental challenges, quality sleep, depression treatment, moderation in alcohol intake, maintaining hearing, and seeking meaning in life. While these steps do not guarantee immunity, they significantly lower the risk.

Unmodifiable Risk Factors

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The presentation also highlighted the risk factors beyond one's control. Age and sex are unalterable, with women being more at risk due to their longer lifespan. Genetics plays a part too, but only a small percentage of dementias are genetically inherited. This fact underscores that dementia, comprising nearly 100 different syndromes, is not an inevitable part of the aging process.

'The Mom Project'

Adding a human touch to the event was 'The Mom Project', an exhibition of portraits by Mark Crofton Bell. The portraits depicted his mother's struggles with dementia, offering a poignant reminder of the personal battles fought by those grappling with the condition.

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New Research Findings

Reinforcing Putman's presentation, new research has identified 15 risk factors for young-onset dementia, challenging the belief that genetics is the sole cause. The study tracked over 350,000 participants, noting that lower education, socioeconomic status, genetic variation, and alcohol use disorder are among the identified risk factors. The findings reveal that young-onset dementia is on the rise, affecting individuals during their prime working years and causing substantial emotional, social, and financial impacts. The biggest risk factors for dementia in general remain age, genetic factors, lifestyle factors, and medical conditions. As such, reducing daily stress, moderating alcohol consumption, staying socially engaged, and prioritizing sleep quality are recommended strategies to lower dementia risk.

In conclusion, the message was clear: dementia is not a certainty of aging. By embracing healthier lifestyle choices and managing medical conditions, the risk of dementia can be significantly reduced. While genetics and age play a part, they are not the sole determinants. As we navigate the complexities of dementia, it is incumbent upon us to take proactive steps for our brain health.

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