Most types of dementia cannot be cured and will gradually cause more severe problems.
But there are important exceptions, including dementia caused by vitamin and thyroid hormone deficiencies, which can be treated with supplements.
Some causes can be treated surgically – for example, some brain tumours, excess fluid on the brain (hydrocephalus) or head injury.
For types of dementia that involve degeneration of nerve and brain tissue, you can take action to prevent further damage. It’s possible to do this by reducing dementia risk factors, such as by managing high blood pressure, high cholesterol, type 1 diabetes and stopping smoking.
For dementia that currently cannot be cured, some types of medicine may prevent symptoms getting worse for a period of time. These medicines are usually given to people in the early and middle stages of the disease, to try to maintain or improve their independence.
It is fairly common for people with dementia to have depression. If you have dementia and depression, your GP may consider prescribing an antidepressant medication, or get you an appointment with a psychiatrist who specialises in working with older people.
Perhaps the most important type of dementia care is the care and support the patients receive from healthcare professionals, family and friends.
If you or a loved one have been diagnosed with dementia, you should start planning the future care that will be required.
Discuss the options, such as Power of Attorney, with the people concerned – your family, your GP and your local authority. The Alzheimer’s Society is also a valuable source of information and support. It has branches in England, Ireland and Wales.
There is no certain way to prevent all types of dementia.
However, a healthy lifestyle can help lower your risk of developing dementia when you are older. It can also prevent cardiovascular diseases, such as strokes and heart attacks.
To reduce your risk of developing dementia and other serious health conditions, it’s recommended that you:
eat a healthy diet maintain a healthy weight exercise regularly don’t drink alcohol stop smoking (if you smoke) make sure to keep your blood pressure at a healthy level
A low-fat, high-fibre diet including plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables and wholegrains can help reduce your risk of some kinds of dementia. Limiting the amount of salt in your diet to no more than six grams a day can also help. Too much salt will increase your blood pressure, which puts you at risk of developing some types of dementia. High cholesterol levels may also put you at risk of developing some kinds of dementia, so try to limit the amount of food you eat that is high in saturated fat.
Being overweight can increase your blood pressure, which increases your risk of getting some kinds of dementia. The risk is higher if you are obese. The most scientific way to measure your weight is to calculate your body mass index (BMI).
People with a BMI of 25-30 are overweight, and those with a BMI above 30 are obese. People with a BMI of 40 or more are morbidly obese.
Exercising regularly will make your heart and blood circulatory system more efficient. It will also help to lower your cholesterol and keep your blood pressure at a healthy level, decreasing your risk of developing some kinds of dementia.
For most people, a minimum of 150 minutes (2 hours and 30 minutes) of moderate-intensity aerobic activity each week, such as cycling or fast walking, is recommended.
Drinking excessive amounts of alcohol will cause your blood pressure to rise, as well as raising the level of cholesterol in your blood.
Smoking can cause your arteries to narrow, which can lead to a rise in your blood pressure. It also increases your risk of developing cardiovascular diseases, cancer and dementia.
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