All over the world the number of elderly people is increasing, but the good thing is, this is balanced by more medical research done to help them enjoy their retirement years and avoid age-related diseases.
Now, when it comes to illnesses, prevention is always the first line of defence, and it’ll be much cheaper than treatment. And one of the most important groups of diseases you can prevent affects your brain.
Brain-related ailments include strokes and dementia, but all of them ultimately cause you to question your sense of self and your sense of worth – if you still have enough presence of mind left.
Growing old with you
Aging is associated with many changes in various organs and systems in the body. Your brain too, also undergoes certain changes as you grow older.
For instance, aging causes changes in the size of the brain; the blood vessels of the brain change and the levels of various chemical messengers in the brain get altered, changing the way you feel and think.
What are some of the brain busters?
Stroke – The brain attack
All of us know about heart attack. But do we know enough about brain attacks? A brain attack is as serious as a heart attack, and it is also called a stroke. In both the heart and the brain attack, a delay or denial of oxygen to vital heart or brain cells are the mechanics behind permanent mental damage.
Strokes occur when the blood supply to the brain is blocked. This can be the result of a blocked artery or can also occur due to bleeding within the brain, which happens when blood vessels rupture.
The effects of strokes are multitudinous. Full or partial paralysis, stunted coordination, speech problems, and problems with memory are some of the complications that are likely – with a massive stroke being the worst case scenario.
Strokes require immediate and urgent treatment. To prevent stroke it is important to know the risk factors for stroke and to prevent its complications it is essential to know the symptoms of stroke.
And it is even more important to identify a first stroke, as a high percentage of first stroke sufferers go on to have another, much more serious second one.
Different strokes …
Since stroke requires immediate treatment, it is important to note down the exact timing of the beginning of symptoms as they appear. Some of the common presenting symptoms of stroke can be:
1. Sudden weakness or numbness of an arm
2. Weakness or numbness of the face
3. Sudden difficulty in talking
4. Sudden loss of balance/difficulty in walking
5. Sudden loss of vision
6. Sudden severe headache without a known cause
Most of these symptoms are usually not painful, or may change in intensity or even stop after some time.
Don’t shrug off these symptoms. You could lose your mind or control of your body.
Stroke, like progressive taxes, is a great leveler. Nobody is safe from having one, and your odds only increase if you have:
1. Advanced age: Age is one of the more important risk factors for developing a stroke, but some patients also have
2. Hypertension: High blood pressure increases the chances of atherosclerosis, which can affect the blood vessels of the brain, and thus result in blockage of blood supply.
3. Heart disease: Heart disease and problems with the rhythm of the heart can also increase the risk of developing a stroke.
5. Smoking and alcohol consumption and obesity are the other risk factors.
Since stroke can lead to complications and disability, prevention of stroke is more effective than treating stroke. Boost your brain now by taking these lifestyle changes:
Eating well and staying trim can help avoid atherosclerosis, which in turn helps prevent strokes.
· Avoiding alcohol and smoking important as well.
· An active lifestyle and exercise are also advantageous.
· Seeking immediate medical treatment in case of symptoms of stroke can be helpful in limiting the complications.
You think, therefore you are
Another brain buster is Alzheimer’s dementia, which is a form of dementia. The incidence of Alzheimer’s dementia increases with age and is common after the age of 60 years.
Alzheimer’s dementia is characterized by problems with memory and difficulty in thinking. There is often difficulty in carrying out day-to-day activities, and so patients require care-takers.
Dementia can also take form in the shape of vascular dementia. It occurs due to changes in the blood vessels in the brain.
Who am I?
Patients with Alzheimer’s dementia have problems with certain functions carried out by the brain, such as in thinking and memory. Some of the common symptoms of Alzheimer’s dementia are:
· Getting lost on a known street
· Difficulty in remembering recent things or events
· Difficulty in choosing the right words while talking
· Losing or misplacing things
Can dementia be prevented?
Since dementia affects the growing elderly population, the logical question is can it be prevented? Here are some factoids:
· Factors thought to be helpful are eating a healthy balanced diet, adequate sleep, and treatment of heart disease and regular exercise.
· It’s true. Learning new hobbies, reading, playing board games, solving puzzles or crosswords seem to be helpful in keeping oneself mentally alert. These activities are associated with mental stimulation, and are thought to have a beneficial effect in reducing the risk of impairment in thinking abilities.
Summing up, it is important to recognise that stroke, heart disease and dementia are interrelated. Stroke and heart disease have common risk factors; and in turn, heart disease and stroke can act as risk factors for dementia.
As with all illnesses, a healthy diet, regular exercise and physical activity, avoiding smoking and alcohol, and treatment of hypertension, obesity and diabetes will help you stay mentally sharp.
So don’t believe anyone who says you can’t learn new tricks when you’re old. You will still be able to, if you start on the way to healthy living today.