January is Alzheimer's Awareness Month, learn more about decreasing your risk of developing dementia.
Many people worry they will develop dementia when they get older. This is not surprising since increasing age remains the strongest risk factor for developing dementia. Despite intense media coverage describing the predicted increase in the number of people living with dementia in Canada and the World, there was an optimistic theme to the 9th Canadian Conference on Dementia (CCD) held in Toronto, November 2017.
Dementia is a term used to describe changes in thinking that get worse over time and start to impact functional independence. To date, research into treatments to heal the brain after dementia symptoms are present have been disappointing. Many studies are now focusing on treatments to be used before symptoms develop. It will likely be some years before these treatments are available.
But the news is not all grim. The increase in the total number of people with dementia is not due to a higher risk of developing dementia than in past generations. Instead, it is the result of the increasing number of people expected to live into old age, including the Baby Boomers born 1946 – 1964.
Overall, it is estimated that approximately 30% of our individual risk of dementia is from the genetic risk factors we were born with (Cassidy, 9th CCD Plenary Session, 2017). Instead of dwelling on this, it is important to focus on the 30% of dementia (Alzheimer’s) cases that could potentially be prevented by early prevention strategies (Norton Lancet Neurology 2014; 13(8):788-94).
Dr. Keri-Leigh Cassidy, Associate Professor of Geriatric Psychiatry at Dalhousie University, provided the audience in Toronto with the tools to make those early prevention strategies a reality. She described the Fountain of Health Initiative which is the Canadian collaboration behind the fountainofhealth.ca website. This is not a website for people with dementia. This is a website for adults of all ages who are motivated to do everything they can to keep their brains healthy so they can enjoy life at 80, 90 and 100.This is an entirely free resource with no commercial interests. The homepage guides viewers to a video, a description of 5 areas in which individuals can target their efforts to decrease their risk of dementia and a quiz to help identify areas that might have the biggest impact. These target areas include positive thinking, social activity, physical activity, brain challenge and mental health. The Fountain of Health website contains a downloadable Handbook and a Goal Setting Worksheet under the Resources tab. There is also a section, called “Clinicians’ Corner” for people working in health and wellness sectors containing downloadable documents. All of these resources are supported by an extensive base of evidence that is shared under the Resources tab in a section called Evidence Base.
The Fountain of Health Initiative can help each one of us decrease our individual risk of developing dementia.They sum it up well, “Do it for your family. Do it for your community. Do it for yourself.”
Submitted by: Elizabeth Rhynold MD FRCPC, Geriatrician, Prairie Mountain Health
Dr. Rhynold is an Geriatrician for the Prairie Mountain Health region. She is a medical doctor who specialized in Internal Medicine during residency and then did extra training focusing on older adults. Dr. Rhynold meets patients, either in person or by Telehealth, who have been referred by another doctor or a nurse practitioner. She does not provide day to day care, but instead, will do a detailed assessment and provides suggestions to the referring doctor or nurse practitioner.
Alzheimer Society of Manitoba
The Alzheimer Society of Manitoba provides information, support, education and advocacy for people with dementia, their caregivers and the public. Visit the Alzheimer Society of Manitoba to read more about the programs and services available to Manitobans impacted by dementia.
For more information visit:
If you are worried or have questions, contact the Alzheimer Society of Manitoba and your primary care practitioner.
For more information on Regional Services contact:
Julie Hockley, Senior Manager, Regional Services
Alzheimer Society of Manitoba, Westman – Brandon
Unit 4B -457 9th Street R7A 1K2
Tel: 204-729-8320, ext. 201