If you ask doctors what disease their patients fear most, they’ll tell you: Alzheimer’s disease or another type of dementia. Growing old itself is not so scary to many people. But the idea of living in a demented state can paralyze people with worry or tempt them to pursue preventive treatments based on false hope.
Like Ponce de Leon searching the New World for the fountain of youth, we want the magic solution to problems of aging.
Unfortunately, there is no pill or vaccine to prevent dementia, but there is hope. It stems from an approach that’s much simpler than drug treatments. And it’s tied to basic steps we can all take to prevent many other life-threatening conditions as well.
As surprising as it may sound, our hope comes from recent and convincing research that points to five healthy habits that may prevent or delay the onset of dementia.
Evidence also shows that having more basic education and better social well-being protect people from late-life dementia. That’s why we need to keep finding ways to improve our social support systems and invest in education and economic stability.
If you have concerns or questions about dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, talk to your doctor.
by Eric B. Larson, MD, MPH
Vice President for Research, Group Health
Executive Director, Group Health Research Institute
Drs. Larson and Crane co-lead Group Health-University of Washington collaboration learning how to promote healthy aging.