A break from my usual programming…
I have been reading a lot about how to prevent dementia. My books on dementia caregiving have made me think a lot about how we can prevent getting dementia or some other form of neurocognitive disorder such as Alzheimer’s. Dementia is a condition in the brain that affects our capacity to remember things, process information, and organize our thoughts. It can impact our ability to make safe and wise choices and it can affect our language and movement. I have been listening to webinars, reading books, and scanning the Internet for organizations who have authority on the subject. Here’s a satirical piece on the subject, a break from my usual kind of writing.
Top Ten List of Ways to Increase Your Chances of Getting a Dementia Diagnosis
1.Live a very long life. The older we get, the better our chances are to get dementia. Dying at a younger age can work against you if you really want to experience the joys of dementia. If you are lucky, you may end up getting early-onset dementia which is when it comes when you are under the age of 65.
2. Don’t exercise. Stay very sedentary. The less you move, the better it is for dementia to set in. The less stress you put on your heart and your muscles, the more chances your brain and vascular system has to suffer the consequences of very slow and gentle blood circulation. Moving more and getting your blood pumping would deliver more oxygen and healthy cells to your organs, so the less chances of that happening, the better.
3. Smoke and drink alcohol. The more you smoke and drink, the better. If you started smoking and drinking (they go hand-in-hand!) at a younger age, that would definitely increase your chances for getting dementia. If you haven’t smoked or drank in your life, you should start now. The unfiltered cigarettes are the best. Any kind of alcohol is perfect (just remember if you don’t want to get cancer or heart disease, you may faced with a difficult decision.)
4. Eat lots of junk food. The more sugar in your diet, the better! Dementia (and cancer – what a bonus!) loves sugar. If you have diabetes that is even better. Poorly managed blood sugars can also increase your risk for stroke and heart attack. They don’t call dementia Type 3 diabetes for nothing. Eat whatever you want to your hearts content. Just avoid nutritious meals like what they recommend for the MIND or Mediterranean Diet (you know like lots of fresh fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds). They say “What’s not good for your body is not good for your brain” so that’s a good mantra to put on repeat. The more processed foods you can add to your diet would be very advantageous. And while you are at it, stop drinking so much water. That way you don’t have to piddle so much (that tip comes from my mom!).
5. Invite and create lots of stress in your life. Studies show that stress can cause lots of stress on your system which can lead to lots of bad things happening in your body – including cognitive decline. It would be advisable to avoid things like meditation, self-care, having fun, and taking breaks. If you are still of working age, find a job that is really stressful that pushes you to the limits. You may also end up getting high blood pressure, anxiety, and sleep deprivation, so these combined can really enhance your chances of getting some sort of brain drain and cognitive problems.
6. Stop doing novel things. If you like to be bored and thrive on doing nothing new, this is the perfect thing for you! Keep on turning down opportunities that can enhance your learning. Your brain will feel good and learn how to build new neural pathways, so this is a no-no when it comes to wanting an unhealthy brain. Traveling can also cause an increased risk of learning and expanding the brain cells. People who want to get dementia stop traveling and especially refuse to learn new things such as a new language or take a dance class.
7. Welcome and encourage head injuries. If you want to increase your chances of banging up your head and causing some damage, you can do risky things like riding a bike without a helmet, or be in a motorized vehicle without a seatbelt (one downside of not wearing a seatbelt is that you may be fined or you may get a really bad body injury, not just a “traumatic brain injury” or even death). If you are a bit unsteady when you walk, don’t use a cane or walker. Using mobility aids can help prevent you from falling, and therefore it could help prevent a bonk to the head. Taking a risk to go from here to there with the walker will only decrease your chances for bumping the old noggin.
8. Try not to sleep so much. The less sleep you get, the better. Your brain cleans itself at night, so the less sleep you get, the less chance your brain has to clean itself. It’s better to let the impurities build up in hopes it could cause some build of of plaques and maybe even tangles (I am not quite sure how the plaque and tangles form, but I am thinking it may have something to do with poor sleep habits.)
9. Avoid contact with others. Stay in to win! One of the best ways to get dementia is to stay home on your own, most of the time. If you live with family or have a roommate, try to avoid them as much as possible. They say the more you converse with and interact with people, the more healthy your brain is. If you play bridge or scrabble, stop playing it. The brain is stimulated by sitting with others, strategizing the next move, and it’s really bad for (helps reduce the risk of) dementia. “Just say no!”
10. Don’t correct your poor vision or hearing. Toss away your glasses and hearing aids. It has been proven that if you can see and hear well, it reduces your chances to get Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia. I am not completely sure of how that works, but they are learning that people who have poor hearing and don’t wear hearing aids have a bigger chance of getting dementia. Same goes for difficulties with vision.
What other things can we do to help ourselves get dementia? I want to hear it!
Angela G. Gentile, MSW, RSW