If you aren’t caring for someone with cognitive impairment, chances are you know someone who this debilitating disease has touched. An estimated 6.7 million Americans 65 and older are living with Alzheimer's, according to the most recent data from the Alzheimer’s Association. And I think we can all agree that Alzheimer’s and other cognitive diseases are ones we’d like to avoid.
The statics are staggering. One in three seniors dies with Alzheimer’s or another dementia. And it kills more people than breast and prostate cancer combined. Despite all the research and awareness brought to this crisis, the number of people affected continues to grow. By 2050, the number of Americans affected by Alzheimer’s will almost double.
While we can look at stats on how gender and race affect Alzheimer’s, the truth is that those are preconditions we can’t change. They might make some of us feel better and others more concerned. But there are proactive steps we can take.
Take care of your mouth!
Of course as dental professionals, we list this step first. New studies link oral and brain health even more closely than we thought. One of the bacteria that destroys gum tissue (Porphyromonas gingivalis) and the enzyme it produces (gingipains) has been found in the brains of those suffering with Alzheimer’s. And further studies show when a nerve cell in the brain meets that enzyme. It releases a protein that can attach and damage neighboring cells—causing all those tangles and plaques you hear about.
All this science talk means that you don’t want these bacteria hanging out in your mouth and taking a trip to your brain. So, the oral hygiene lecture just got more interesting.
Healthy gums don’t bleed! Even when you poke them with a brush, or we poke with a probe.
If you or your hygienist notice bleeding, it’s time to stop and figure out how to treat that active infection. Bleeding could happen for many reasons, but it is the most common sign of gum disease and more than 90% of American have gingivitis or periodontitis.
If you have been diagnosed with gum disease, be sure to consider Perio Protect homecare. Perio Tray™ delivery is the easiest, comfortable and most effective way to direct medication deep below you gums for reliable results. See for yourself, visit www.perioprotect.com/claims.
The old saying you are what you eat has never been more accurate. Eat junk and your body becomes junkier. While there are many diets and ways to eat food, the one thing that all experts agree on is to eat unprocessed food. They often say shopping from the grocery store's perimeter will help you make better choices. Mine happens to have beer on the left wall, so you might need to limit your time in that section.
Get that blood pumping!!! It’s estimated that 80% of individuals with Alzheimer's also have cardiovascular disease. And interestingly, some autopsy studies show the presence of brain plaques and tangles that remain asymptomatic due to a healthy vascular system. You don’t have to run a marathon but move your body every day!
There appears to be a strong link between cognitive decline and severe head trauma. So wear your seatbelt and your bike helmet to protect your noggin. Also, consider decluttering your house to help prevent falls.
Connection and learning
Go meet your neighbors, join a club, or try something new. Not only do you get out of your house, but numerous studies show human interaction increases mental activity and lowers the risk for cognitive decline.
We are always learning to provide you with the best, most up-to-date care for your whole body. And we get to keep our brains active! We hope our connection to you keeps your brain healthy and stimulated for years to come.