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Coping with Memory Loss

Resources for Coping continued...

Alzheimer's Association. Resources of the Alzheimer's Association include an online message board; a 24/7 toll-free number; information on legal, financial, and living-arrangement decisions; and referrals to local community programs. Services include CareFinder, an interactive tool to help you choose home and residential care providers, and Safe Return, a program that helps when a person with AD or a related dementia wanders and becomes lost.

Alzheimer's Disease Education and Referral Center. A service of the NIA. Information specialists can answer questions and offer free publications on home safety tips, caregiving tips, and information on the diagnosis and treatment of AD and related disorders, and ongoing research. A joint NIA and FDA effort maintains the Alzheimer's Disease Clinical Trials Database.

Family Caregiver Alliance. This alliance offers online discussion groups and caregiver information in English, Spanish, and Chinese, as well as fact sheets, including the Caregiver's Guide to Understanding Dementia Behaviors.

Can Memory Loss Be Prevented?

There is no conclusive evidence that the herb ginkgo biloba prevents memory loss. And research has shown that the combination of estrogen and progestin increased the risk of dementia in women older than age 65.

So what can you do to prevent memory loss? Clinical trials are under way to test specific interventions. While those tests are being conducted, you may want to consider hints from animal and observational studies of promising approaches. These steps are already beneficial in other ways and may help reduce the risk of developing memory problems.

  • Lower cholesterol and high blood pressure. A number of studies in recent years have suggested that vascular diseases--heart disease and stroke--may contribute to the development of AD, the severity of AD, or the development of multi-infarct dementia (also called vascular dementia).
  • Don't smoke or abuse alcohol. According to a recent research report from Harvard Medical School, "Improving Memory: Understanding Age-Related Memory Loss," smokers perform worse than nonsmokers in studies of memory and thinking skills. Heavy alcohol use can also impair memory.
  • Get regular exercise. Physical activity may help maintain blood flow to the brain and reduce risk factors associated with dementia.
  • Maintain healthy eating habits. According to a study published in the Oct. 24, 2006, issue of Neurology, eating vegetables may help slow down the rate of cognitive change in adults. Researchers studied 3,718 residents in Chicago who were older than age 65. Of the types of vegetables, green leafy vegetables had the strongest association with slowing the rate of cognitive decline. Also reducing foods high in saturated fat and cholesterol and eating fish with beneficial omega-3 fatty acids, such as salmon and tuna, may benefit brain health. An NIA-funded clinical trial to test the effects of omega-3 fatty acids in people with AD is now recruiting patients nationwide.
  • Maintain social interactions. Social interaction can help reduce stress levels and has been associated with a lower risk of dementia. In the February 2007 issue of the Archives of General Psychiatry, researchers found that loneliness is associated with an increased risk of late-life dementia.
  • Keep your brain active. Some experts suggest that challenging the brain with such activities as reading, writing, learning a new skill, playing games, and gardening stimulates brain cells and the connections between the cells, and may be associated with a lower risk of dementia.

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