Study shows a lot of misunderstanding about dementia

You can lower your risk, but maybe not in the ways you’ve heard

By Lindsey Tanner THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

Many older American adults may inaccurately estimate their chances for developing dementia and do useless things to prevent it, new research suggests.

Almost half of adults surveyed believed they were likely to develop dementia. The results suggest many didn’t understand the connection between physical health and brain health and how racial differences can affect dementia risk.

Substantial numbers of people who rated their health as fair or poor thought their dementia chances were low. At the same time, many who said they were in excellent health said they were likely to develop the memory robbing disease.

Many said they tried at least one of four unproven memory-protecting methods, including taking supplements like fish oil and ginkgo. The most popular strategy was doing crossword puzzles. Mental stimulation is thought to help, but there’s stronger evidence for more challenging activities than puzzles — things like playing chess, taking a class, reading about unfamiliar topics, said Keith Fargo, who oversees research and outreach programs at the Alzheimer’s Association. He was not involved in the study.

Research has shown that regular exercise, a good diet, limiting alcohol and not smoking make dementia less likely. Supplements have not been shown to help.

“We really haven’t done a good job of getting the word out that there really are things you can do to lower your risk,” said Dr. Donovan Maust, the study’s lead author and a geriatric psychiatrist at the University of Michigan.

The study was published online Friday in JAMA Neurology. It’s based on a nationally representative health survey of 1,000 adults aged 50 to 64.

The survey asked people to assess their likelihood of developing dementia and whether they had ever discussed ways to prevent it with their doctor. Few people said they had, regardless of their self-rated risk for dementia.

The results raise concerns because doctors can help people manage conditions such as high blood pressure and diabetes that have been linked with dementia risk, Maust, said.

Among those who said their physical health was only fair or poor, a substantial 40 per cent thought they were at low risk for Alzheimer’s disease or other dementia. Almost the same portion rated their chances as likely even though they reported very good or excellent physical health.

More whites than blacks or Hispanics surveyed believed they were likely to develop dementia and almost two-thirds of blacks said they were unlikely. Only 93 blacks were surveyed, making it difficult to generalize those results to all U.S. blacks. But U.S. minorities face higher risks for dementia than whites — blacks face double the risk — and the Alzheimer’s Association has outreach programs that aim to raise awareness in black and Hispanic communities.

“There’s lots of work to do … to educate the public so they can take some actions to protect themselves,” Fargo said.

One in three seniors die with Alzheimer’s or other dementias, according to the Alzheimer’s Association. While there are no medicines or medical treatments proven to prevent it, rigorous European studies have shown that healthy lifestyles may help prevent mental decline. The Alzheimer’s Association is sponsoring similar U.S. research.

The new study used data from the University of Michigan National Poll on Healthy Aging. Adults were surveyed online in October 2018. Funding came from AARP, the University of Michigan health system and U.S. government grants.

Just Posted

Vancouver Islanders converting front yards to food production

Front yard redevelopment transforming urban dwellers from consumers, to producers

Surfrider Pacific Rim hopes unique wetsuit recycling program stays local to the Coast

“We really want to see someone locally or regionally take this on and use this material locally.”

WATCH: Clean-up complete at abandoned Vancouver Island ski hill

Volunteers rid Forbidden Plateau of debris left over from defunct alpine operation

Fence, patrols clean up Duncan neighbourhood, long term solutions scarce

Number of homeless people camping in Lewis Street area has dropped significantly after recent sweep

Closure adds to Parksville Qualicum Beach doctor crisis

One of Canada’s oldest populations having trouble attracting medical expertise

VIDEO: Boys help rescue Cariboo bear cub

The cub, weighing just 24lbs, has been taken to wildlife sanctuary in Northwest B.C. for the winter

Miller nets winner as Canucks edge Sabres 6-5 in OT

Roussel, Leivo tally two apiece for Vancouver

$578: that’s how much your first distracted driving ticket will cost with recent premium hikes

Over 50 per cent of Canadians admitted to using phone while driving last year, according to study

Kelowna man attempts to steal bait bike from RCMP parking lot

38-year-old Brian Richard Harbison is facing several charges

New survey finds 4.7 million women over 15 were victims of sexual assault in Canada

Some 1.2 million men (eight per cent) report having been sexually assaulted since age 15

CCPA actors fall down a Shakespearian rabbit hole

Ann-Marie MacDonald’s Goodnight Desdemona (Good Morning Juliet) makes for chaotic theatre fun

TESS VAN STRAATEN: Find Christmas cheer in the heart of Victoria

From the iconic Fairmont Empress to decorated Old Town, seasonal activities abound in the harbour

‘Things haven’t changed enough:’ Ecole Polytechnique anniversary prompts reflection

Fourteen women were fatally shot by a gunman at the Montreal school on Dec. 6, 1989

Concern grows as deadline looms for major downtown Nanaimo hotel development

PEG Developments say they’re pushing to break ground before Dec. 31 deadline

Most Read