Healthy lifestyle can prevent senility

High cholesterol, low exercise rates can be factors

Like many of the elderly, my 88-year-old mother fears “losing her mind.”

Like a classic hypochondriac, she has a tendency to read information about dementia and draw the conclusion that she’s careening down a slippery slope.

Even worse, she often views a mental decline as inevitable and thus resigns herself to decision-making based on worse-case scenarios.

I have spent some time talking to her about such concerns and getting her some pamphlets and information to try and help her put things in perspective.  She is, after all, “getting up there,” but she currently lives independently and takes care of her personal matters almost entirely on her own.  I constantly remind her that she’s OK and her memory issues are not much different than mine, so like me, she should keep lists!

The human body and brain do, indeed, have a time limit attached to them.

It would be foolish to assume that aging is not going to have some impact on both physical health and mental acuity.  We are products of our genetics and our lifestyle and both of those factors play firmly into how our aging will impact upon us.

When it comes to dementia, it appears that lifestyle is the most significant factor.

Individuals with high blood pressure, high cholesterol, low rates of exercise and minimal intellectual activities, have a tendency to experience an earlier onset of symptoms.

For the most part, dementia is a function of declining efficiency of neural synapses, most commonly caused by the buildup of plaque in brain blood vessels or the natural “pruning” of neural pathways when they go unused.  Like any muscle, the brain has a “use it or lose it” potential.

The first steps to long-term mental health really take place long before we reach those golden years.  Practising good dietary and exercise habits as a life-long routine, as well as stretching our brain’s capacity through constant stimulation and challenge, is the best way to encourage mental fitness.

The earlier the better to develop good habits, but better today than never to change bad ones!

Yet, despite our best efforts to maintain mental health, some people will experience various levels of decline.  They may notice changes themselves or it may be relatives or friends that will notice changes in abilities or mood that will signify something is not right.

An individual with good mental health is generally stable emotionally and independent in living his/her day-to-day life.  We all have our little quirks, but it is a change in the usual patterns of living that raises a red flag.  It is important that we look out for each other.

Some of us will also experience a reduction in mental sharpness that is not necessarily progressive or a threat to our long-term capacity to care for ourselves.  In other words, a little loss of sharpness may not be related to a form of dementia.  Forgetting a few things is hardly a reason to start making arrangements for long-term care!

What is most important in keeping track of mental health processes is to develop a good relationship with a family physician, ensure that physical health factors that might affect mental health are addressed and perhaps keep a journal of mental or emotional changes that are occurring.  Early diagnosis and treatment can be effective in reducing both the anxiety and the symptoms of “losing your mind.”

Graham Hookey writes on education, parenting and eldercare.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Police boats were called in to search the Fraser River after a report that a plane had crashed where the river runs between Langley and Maple Ridge. (Shane MacKichan/Special to The News)
Investigation enters final phase, missing aircraft last seen over Fraser River in Maple Ridge

Small aircraft was carrying a student and instructor on June 6

BC Liberal Leader Andrew Wilkinson announces new infrastructure, flanked by Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows candidate Cheryl Ashlie and Maple Ridge-Mission candidate Chelsa Meadus. (Neil Corbett/THE NEWS)
Liberals promise transportation infrastructure in Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows

Wilkinson said his party would also add mental health beds at Ridge Meadows Hospital

BC Liberal Leader Andrew Wilkinson announces an end to the ICBC monopoly if the Liberal Party is elected, during a stop in Maple Ridge. (Neil Corbett/The News)
BC Liberal Leader in Pitt Meadows for announcement

Wilkinson visits Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows riding seen as a key election battleground

Caitlin Smith shows a picture of her own kids trying to manouvre the are of 123rd Avenue and Creston Street in Maple Ridge to demonstrate the danger that exists for pedestrians in that area. (Caitlin Smith/Special to The News)
LETTER: Maple Ridge traffic circle a potential ‘death trap’

Parent reiterates ongoing plea for council to make city streets safe for pedestrians

Ron Paley shared a picture from a Sunday morning bike ride, before the rains, when he stopped across the street from Krystal Creek Riding stable, on Ford Detour Road in Pitt Meadows. (Special to The News)
SHARE: Check out the horsepower found in this Pitt Meadows field

Send us your photo showing how you view Maple Ridge or Pitt Meadows, and it could be featured soon

The RCMP helicopter. (File photo)
Suspect escapes after police pursuit through Surrey, Langley, Abbotsford

Police chase involved two stolen vehicles, including one taken in Mission

IIO Chief Civilian Director Ron MacDonald. (File photo: Tom Zytaruk)
Police watchdog concludes Mounties didn’t shoot Surrey teen at strip mall

IIO finds tragic death of teenager ‘not the result of any actions or inactions’ by the Surrey RCMP

A passer-by walks past a COVID-19 testing clinic in Montreal, Friday, Oct. 16, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Canada ‘yet to see’ deaths due to recent COVID surge as cases hit 200,000

Much of the increase in case numbers can be attributed to Ontario and Quebec

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Police confirm human remains were found in a recycling bin in Vancouver on Oct. 18, 2020. (Black Press Media file photo)
Human remains found in recycling bin floating near Vancouver beach

Police asking nearby residents to see if their recycling bin has gone missing

Emergency crews shut down White Rock’s Five Corners district on Feb. 19, 2020 after an altercation left an elderly man in critical condition. (File photo)
Trial dates set in White Rock manslaughter case

Proceedings against Ross Banner, 71, set for June 2021 in Surrey Provincial Court

The many faces of Daon Glasgow. (Photos: Surrey RCMP)
Glasgow found not guilty of trying to murder transit cop in Surrey

Transit Police Constable Josh Harms was shot Jan. 30, 2019 at Scott Road SkyTrain Station

Most Read