Aging is inevitable, but are we all going to end up with dementia? No, I hope not. There is a misunderstanding that dementia is part of the normal aging process. What would it be like for you to know that it’s not, and there are things you can do to prevent yourself from developing dementia? This blog post is the first of a series where I will introduce topics related to healthy aging and dementia prevention.
But first, we must debunk this myth that dementia is just a part of normal aging. Age related changes continue to happen throughout the lifespan. As people age, it is possible to experience changes in your cognitive abilities. However, there is a difference between normal age-related cognitive changes and dementia. Dementia is referred to as cognitive decline between more than one cognitive area, which is referred to as a “domain”. One of those domains must be memory. Examples of other cognitive domains include attention, executive functioning, memory, visuospatial abilities, and language. Now, before you worry that you have dementia, there is a threshold for normal aging in regard to memory and forgetting where you put your keys occasionally is normal.
Now, how do we keep brain active and health? Researchers have been looking at the idea of “use it or lose it,” in terms of our cognitive abilities. Exercising your brain is just as important (if not more important), than exercising your body. Recent studies have shown that cognitive stimulating activities such as reading, crossword puzzles, board games, and socializing can reduce the risk or delay the onset of dementia.
The series of blogs to follow will discuss important risk factors for developing dementia and what we can do to reduce our risk. …but for now, keep those minds active!
Azar, B. (2002, May). Use it or lose it? Retrieved August 17, 2020, from https://www.apa.org/monitor/may02/useit
Irwin, K., Sexton, C., Daniel, T., Lawlor, B., & Naci, L. (2018). Healthy aging and dementia: two roads diverging in midlife? Frontiers in aging neuroscience, 10, 275.
The Truth About Aging and Dementia. (2020, August 17). Retrieved August 17, 2020, fromm https://www.cdc.gov/aging/publications/features/dementia-not-normal-aging.html
About the Author…
Angelina Witbeck, MA, is in her fourth year of doctoral studies in the clinical psychology program at Illinois School of Professional Psychology. She is working with Dr. Patricia Francis, OP on a dementia prevention program development.