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Dementia

Prevention & Treatment

Monday, Aug. 27, 2007; 7:44 PM

Copyright Harvard Health Publications 2007

Prevention

Table of Contents

Most of the causes of dementia cannot be prevented. Good personal health habits and medical care, however, can prevent some types of dementia. Here are some things you can do:

  • Dementia caused by stroke - Monitor and control your blood pressure, exercise every day, and eat a balanced diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables to maintain a healthy body weight.

  • Alcohol-related dementia - Limit the amount of alcohol you drink.

  • Traumatic dementia - Avoid head injury by always using seat belts, helmets and other protective equipment.

  • Some infection-related dementias - Avoid high-risk sexual behavior.

  • Vitamin-deficiency dementia - Make sure your diet has enough B vitamins, especially vitamin B12. Your doctor may want to order a blood test for B12 level.

  • Hormone-related dementia - Your doctor may want to order a blood test called TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone) to make sure your thyroid is functioning properly.

Keeping your mind active and your body fit may help to prevent mental decline and reduce or postpone memory loss. If you get daily physical exercise and continue to challenge your brain throughout life, you can help to protect your brain against mental decline.

Treatment

Sometimes the cause of dementia can be reversed, such as vitamin B12 deficiency or an underactive thyroid. Treating these conditions may improve the dementia. Other reversible factors that can contribute to symptoms include overuse of alcohol, depression and insomnia.

People with vascular dementia may show less mental decline if their blood pressure is controlled, they stop smoking, lower LDL (“bad” cholesterol), exercise regularly and maintain a healthy weight.

In some people, medications for Alzheimer's may help with behavioral symptoms and perhaps slow down the mental decline. They may delay the need for the person to be placed in a nursing home. Acetylcholinesterase inhibitors, such as donepezil (Aricept), galantamine (Razadyne) and rivastigmine (Exelon), can be prescribed for mild to moderate Alzheimer's dementia. Memantine (Namenda) is approved for moderately severe Alzheimer's dementia.

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