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Association of Golden Australian Pilipinos Inc

Countdown to dementia

By Evelyn A. Opilas
Sydney – Australia
March 6, 2018


“That’s one,” Auntie Dali began.
“That’s two,” came next, two fingers raised.
When she said “That’s three,” that got me wondering about her apparent numerical prowess.

Auntie Dali was counting out, in her affable, loving way, how many times her older sister, Auntie Liw, asked the same question in a matter of five minutes.

Ilocanos have a term for it – ‘agkabaowen’ – yet many seem unaware that what we call ‘forgetfulness’ could be early manifestations of dementia.

Dementia, according to a brochure handed out at a recent forum by Dementia Australia for senior citizens at The Hub Mt Druitt, “is a general term to describe problems with progressive changes in memory and thinking.

“Alzheimer’s disease is the most common type of dementia. “Dementia can happen to anybody, but it becomes more common over the age of 65, and especially over the age of 75.”

Which is why, Paddye Parnell of Dementia Australia told forum participants including members of the Association of Golden Australian Pilipinos Inc (AGAPI), being brain healthy is important at any age, particularly during mid-life, because scientific research shows that it may reduce a person’s risk of developing dementia later in life.

Dementia is not a normal part of ageing, Paddye emphasised, although with age, normal changes to the brain occurs such as slower information processing, increased forgetfulness, and improved vocabulary.

Dementia affects thinking, behaviour and the ability to perform everyday tasks as a consequence of diminished cognitive ability, according to Paddye.

How do you know then if it’s dementia?

According to Dementia Australia, a charity that provides advocacy, support services, education and information for people with dementia, their families and carers, there are a number of conditions that produce symptoms similar to dementia.

These can often be treated, and they include vitamin and hormone deficiencies, depression, medication effects, infection, and brain tumours.

“It is essential that a medical diagnosis is obtained at an early stage when symptoms first appear to ensure that a person who has a treatable condition is diagnosed and treated correctly. If the symptoms are caused by dementia, an early diagnosis will mean early access to support, information and medication should it be available,” they said.

The early stages of dementia can be very subtle, vague and may not be immediately obvious, with common symptoms including progressive and frequent memory loss, confusion, personality change, apathy and withdrawal, loss of ability to perform everyday tasks.

Paddye said that to live a brain healthy life, “you need to look after your brain, your body and your heart.”

Her tips:

For the brain: Keep your brain challenged and be socially active. Scientists have found that challenging the brain with new activities helps to build new brain cells and strengthen connections between them. Socialising that involves both mental and physical activities provide even greater benefits for brain health.

For the heart: What is good for the heart is good for the brain. Research indicates that having diabetes, high cholesterol or high blood pressure and not treating them effectively can damage the blood vessels in the brain and affect brain function and thinking skills. It is important to have regular health checks, manage your blood pressure, cholesterol, blood sugar and body weight at levels that are healthy for you and follow the treatment advice of your doctor, if any. Smoking increases the risk of dementia and should be avoided.

For the body: Eat healthy and participate in regular physical activity. Your brain needs a range of nutrients, fluids and energy to work properly. Choose a variety of foods that include vegetables, fruits, wholegrains, nuts and reduced fat dairy products. If you drink alcohol, drink in moderation which is no more than two standard drinks per day. Regular physical activity helps with blood flow and oxygen supply to the brain. Try to do at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise each day in activities you may enjoy such as swimming, walking, dancing.

An active brain could deter the countdown to dementia. –

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