Dementia: Dr Sara on benefits of being in nature
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Despite its prevalence, many misconceptions swirl around dementia. For starters, it is commonly thought of as a disease. However, it a syndrome – a collection of symptoms associated with brain decline. Another misapprehension is that memory loss is always the first red flag.
In fact, memory loss is not initially associated with certain forms of dementia.
This is particularly true for vascular dementia, which is caused by reduced blood supply to the brain due to diseased blood vessels.
“Memory loss is common in the early stages of Alzheimer’s, but is not usually the main early symptom of vascular dementia,” explains the Alzheimer’s Society (AS).
According to the health body, a person in the early stages of vascular dementia may experience a number of “early” mood changes.
The health body adds: “Depression is common, partly because people with vascular dementia may be aware of the difficulties the condition is causing.”
How to respond
The NHS explains: “See a GP if you think you have early symptoms of dementia, especially if you’re over 65 years of age.”
According to the health body, if it’s found at an early stage, treatment may be able to stop vascular dementia getting worse, or at least slow it down.
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“If you’re worried about someone else, encourage them to make an appointment with a GP and perhaps suggest that you go with them.”
Am I at risk?
There are a number of things that can increase your chances of getting vascular dementia in later life.
Most of these are things that contribute to underlying cardiovascular diseases.
These factors include:
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol
- Type 2 diabetes
- Low levels of physical activity
- Heart problems.
According to Alzheimer’s Research UK, having a stroke is also a risk factor for developing vascular dementia.
“One in every three people who have a stroke go on to develop dementia. Most of these cases are thought to be vascular dementia,” warns the charity.
As the health body explains, some of the risk factors listed can have a genetic susceptibility.
“This means we may inherit a risk of developing high blood pressure, diabetes, or high cholesterol and these problems can run in families.”
Research also suggests that regular exercise and a healthy diet, especially in midlife and into later life, might also help to lower our risk.
In fact, “exercise just once or twice a week can reduce the risk of heart disease or stroke”,” says the NHS.
The health body advises: “Speak to your GP first if you have not exercised for some time, or if you have medical conditions or concerns. Make sure your activity and its intensity are appropriate for your fitness.”
Adults should aim to:
- Do strengthening activities that work all the major muscle groups (legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders and arms) on at least two days a week
- Do at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity activity a week or 75 minutes of vigorous intensity activity a week
- Spread exercise evenly over four to five days a week, or every day
- Reduce time spent sitting.
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