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Lifestyle Changes to Avoid Dementia


Suzanne is joined by Dr. Paul Winner, the Senior Director of the Premiere Research Institute and Attending Neurologist at Palm Beach Neurology in West Palm Beach, Florida. Dr. Winner addresses various lifestyle changes to help avoid developing dementia. He says, “There are risk actors. You want to avoid this as best you can. You don’t want this to happen, even if you’re predisposed genetically to develop it. There are some things you can do to help yourself now. Controlling your blood pressure and exercising are the two single best things you can do outside of getting your hearing checked:

* Have your hearing checked. It’s so easy to find out if you have a hearing deficit and to correct it today with hearing aids. That goes a long way.


* Correct your vision. If you have visual impairments, you want the best input into your brain so it can function as best it can.

*If you’ve got a metabolic syndrome, get it under control. If you have diabetes, control it as best as you can. Check your blood pressure. Studies have shown — the Sprint Mind study showed that controlling blood pressure clearly reduced the development of dementias. You want your blood pressure at 120 over 70 or less. Now obviously, if you’re symptomatic with low blood pressure, you can’t do that, but most patients can, and you want to do that as soon as you possibly can.

* Overweight obesity is another risk factor. Do your best to avoid certain foods. Diet is important. You don’t want to wait till you have the symptoms — you want to get in front of it as best you possibly can. There are many medical and non-medical organizations that can give you some ideas about diet. Diet is complex. There are there’s a Dash diet, there’s a finger diet, and there’s the Mediterranean diet. The diet that you can handle, that you can do, is the right one for you. There are some that statistically seem a little bit better. The Mediterranean diet’s pretty simple.

* Alcohol consumption, basically none is the best, but if you’re going to use it, it needs to be in small quantities. The exact quantities are not clear. Remember, what do we use alcohol for in clinical practice? We use it to clean off our tables, and to kill viruses and bacteria. It is a caustic substance.


* Head trauma — please don’t do things that will ultimately result in you having a head injury, especially after the age of 40. If you’re predisposed to develop that toxic amyloid genetically, and you hit your head, you’re gonna accelerate that process. Do not go fix the roof if you’re 40 or 50. Hire someone to do that. I can’t tell you how many patients I have taken care of that have fallen off ladders when they were fixing gutters or the roof. Get someone to do that for you, if at all possible. Wear a helmet when riding a bicycle. If you’ve got problems with balance, use a stationary bike inside a protected area. I lost a good friend because, unfortunately, he had an injury that resulted in a subdural that clearly could have been prevented, and he’s not with us anymore. It accelerated the dementia aggressively, and within a matter of years he was no longer alive.”

if somebody wants to get tested how do they get tested? Dr. Winner explains, “I don’t want to be too optimistic here, because we’re still doing the research and this is early data, but we have medications that are clinically functioning and look very positive. We need to get the diagnosis correct, which means just getting a simple evaluation of a person’s history and a physical exam is not enough anymore. You need a neuro-behavioral test, administered by people who are very good at doing this, for a basic assessment. Then you’re gonna have to get into much more detail medically to actually get the diagnosis right, because, essentially, Alzheimer’s is about 60 to 70 percent of the dementias. Vascular dementia could be another 20 percent. They can coexist — in fact, the majority of them are mixed, but there is a predominant version on top of that. So you need to go to a center that’s familiar with that. And everything is changing very quickly. We should have FDA-approved medications very soon, we have one right now that is disease-modifying.”

Learn more about the Athira Pharma Alzheimer’s LIFT-AD research study, Interested in learning more? Contact Premiere Research Institute at (561) 296-3838, contact Dr. Winner at (561) 851-9400, or learn more about him here. This podcast is courtesy of Athira Pharma.

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Originally published November 27, 2022


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