GUEST COLUMN: Delaying onset of Alzheimer’s and related dementias

(Getty Images) BY DR. SUSAN VANDERMORRIS Nearly 600,000 Canadians are living with Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia and this number is growing. It’s important to challenge the belief that dementia is inevitable as we age. The truth is, dementia is not a natural part of getting older — although age remains the biggest risk factor. After 65, a person’s likelihood of developing dementia doubles every five years. A major study published in The Journal of the American Medical Association last summer found living a healthy lifestyle can help offset a person’s genetic risk of dementia by 32%. The team at Baycrest’s Rotman Research Institute is intensely focused on brain health and aging research to uncover what society can do to delay the onset of Alzheimer’s and related dementias. The research being conducted at Baycrest continues to show that the earlier we begin to take preventative measures, the better the odds for improving outcomes for brain health. Story continues below Imagine this, if we can delay the onset of dementia by five years, we can reduce its prevalence in the population by about one-third. A healthy lifestyle extends beyond diet and exercise and includes activities that spark from the well of creativity and community. Art, expression and music can challenge us to learn new things, find patterns and make connections. Studies suggest short-term visual arts or music training can boost the brain health of older adults. Speaking two languages can delay the onset of dementia by four years. Finally, consider this, being a lifelong musician can delay some age-related hearing problems by 20 years (and hearing loss can lead to social isolation, a risk factor for cognitive decline and other age-related health issues). In addition to healthy and creative living, there is a huge role for the community to […]

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