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My 86 year old mother was diagnosed with (not specific type) dementia last year. My paternal grandmother had dementia. My maternal grandfather did not have dementia. My father, paternal grandfather, and maternal grandmother died before age 63 without exhibiting dementia symptoms. My primary doctor confirmed that dementia is usually genetic, passed down through the family. My question is what are my chances of have this disease and what can I do now to prolong onset or minimalized effects as much as possible if I do have dementia in the future? I am a 64 year old female and still working as a high school biology teacher. I will retire in two years.

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Yeah Thanklessjob, this all makes you think a lot about quality of life. Pretty much the same time that he retired and his Florida house was completed, my dad was diagnosed with leukemia. He must have known deep-down that he wasn't going to live that long, and though he was getting chemo, he liked sitting in the back veranda drinking Old Milwaukee. My mom and I pushed him to stop because we feared it might blunt the chemo's effectiveness. But he only lived a year or two beyond that anyway. If I had it to do over again, I would have insisted that he drink a better brand of beer and let him do what he liked.
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Nope, Thanklessjob, worry and lack of fun doesn't cause dementia. If that were the case neither my husband nor my mother would even have developed dementia!
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My dad was 85 when he passed away (5 years ago) from a massive stroke (no dementia). He was an alcoholic all his life. I really didn't think too much about my own mortality then. My mother lives on at 93 in her demented world with great physical health. I will be 60 in January. Another decade gone by and this new number sounds "old". All of a sudden my destiny has hit me in the face. I inch closer and closer to what might be my same fate. It's terrifying but really, what can be done? Yeah, sure, let's all eat healthy, exercise daily, keep our minds sharp with new experiences, travel, take vitamins/supplements, not smoke, have yearly physicals, have a positive attitude, a active prayer life, enjoy sex, learn a new language and volunteer at a local charity. Will any of these (or other suggestions) work? That's it, no one knows. There are a lot of demented seniors out there who did all of the above "right".

The answer to how to prevent or cure dementia eludes the most knowledgable doctors and scientists. We don't know any more than we did years ago. The new dementia meds don't seem to work. The brain is the final frontier to be conquered.

So, in the mean time, I'm not (necessarily) going to do all those healthy things. Why? Because medical science can't pin down an answer and stick with it. First, wine is bad for you, then it's good for you! Same with coffee, meat and aged cheese. If it's popular this year, just wait. The studies will come out totally different next year. I'm going to do what makes me happy. There's damn little in life that I can control (having to work, pay bills, c/g for 93 yr. old mom in memory care facility, declining health, etc.), so I'm going to make the areas that I can control a pleasure center. Contrary to popular advise, on my days off, I'll sleep past the regular time I usually get up (sometimes by 3 hours!). I may have that 2nd glass of wine, if I desire, and eat 2 pieces of chocolate with it! I may stay under the warm running shower 5 minutes longer after I've washed everything just to enjoy the feeling. I'm trying real hard to not have anything get under my skin. I try not to "sweat the small stuff". I actually went to the grocery store without makeup. (Gasp!, but I kept my sunglasses on in the store).

Like Bobby McFerrin sang, "Don't worry, be happy". Maybe worry and lack of fun causes dementia. If that's the case, we all need to revamp our lives.
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Blackhole

That's why it is best to have your affairs in order and downsize, so less worry for loved ones.
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Lefthand

I'm sorry for your loss.
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Unfortunately, there's no peace for the loved ones, caregivers and survivors -- during the miserable roller coaster ride that lasts years. Sometimes more than a decade.

Also, elders with compromised decision-making abilities leave behind an estate that is not tidy. And I'm not just talking about a hoarded primary home!

Plenty of surprises during caregiving and in the aftermath. Unfortunately, no pleasant surprises. Not a one.

I'm a big girl and I know "we all have to make our own joy." But the challenges and hoplessness knocked the wind out of my sails to a degree I did not anticipate. Another unpleasant surprise.
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I think that dementia, et al, is a very gentle way to move to the next level of consciousness - for the patient, not the family. I just watched my mother pass from light dementia to full on Alzheimer's in a matter of 4 years. She passed away peacefully last week.
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Maybe all of the health-nut people (no offense intended-health is good) are in for a big shock, lying in the hospital at ages 120, dying of nothing.

Disclaimer, it was a joke people, sorry if any of your experiences are similar.
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I understand your concern, Bocadebo. Been there, am there. And I don't have a scrap of encouragement to add.

My mother dragged around with 2 forms of dementia for much longer than I suspected. (Revealed by autopsy.) When I think back to the years when I thought she had all her buttons and she was "just" being extra intractable and oddly fearful.....jeepers, that was the onset of her dementia.


Now that I know how early mom started manifesting dementia symptoms.....that age isn't terribly far from my current age. **shudder**


To top it all off, settling mom's estate has been long, complex and full of unpleasant surprises. And it's far from over. The distraction makes me extra-irritable and extra-dinggy. Like the way mom was when nooooobody had a clue that dementia was brewing.


I keep telling myself that my lapses are situtional and I need to chill. Easier said than done.
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Walking and other kinds of exercise is no doubt good for us. Our bodies were designed for movement, and evolution hasn't kept up with our more sedentary ways. So walk! Exercise! It can't hurt.

But even from my limited experience of knowing people who got dementia, it is not clear that those who exercised a lot were more protected than those who didn't.

I am not trying to discourage what we know about healthy living. But since we really don't know what causes dementia, we really don't know (yet) how to prevent it. All advice at this point is speculation.
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Here's what my mother sang to me:
Que Será, Será (Whatever Will Be, Will Be)
Doris Day

When I was just a little girl,
I asked my mother, "What will I be?
Will I be pretty?
Will I be rich?"
Here's what she said to me:
"Que sera, sera,
Whatever will be, will be;
The future's not ours to see.
Que sera, sera,
What will be, will be."
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hi ,
im cappy , and my sense of humor has no range posts .
( as it ( wry humor ) should be .
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Bocadebo,
thats the interesting phenomenon about any genuine mental illness -- the ill person will be the last to see it ( usually never ) .
the police and your school district superintendent are sitting in that van across the street right this moment .
i dont think you are in any serious trouble but the jibberish talk is not conducive to the well being of our impressionable school aged youth .
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I think that exercise is one of the best preventive measures you can do. Walking is a good exercise. Join a gym that has a walking track. Walk there or outside every day for 35 minutes. I think it will help. I mean everyday not just 3 x a week or once in a while but everyday, 35 minutes.
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I understand the biggest risk factor to dementia is age and once you reach 85 you have over 50 percent chance and chances keep increasing with age.

My parents were both healthy, fit, excersized, kept active and once they got into early 80s started getting signs of dementia. I know others who ate terrible diets, were overweight, no excersize, smoked...and are in mid 80s sharp as a tack....wish i knew the secret..

I think i would rather go early with a quick heart attack then live forever with dementia.
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I don't think there is any point in knowing until we have the ability to do something about it. My mom was fine too right through her 80's, for my family it is the genetic curse of long life that may rise up and bite me. My beloved grandmother tripped and broke her hip at 90 and though she lived another year she never really recovered, a blessing perhaps? My great aunt (her sister) died confused at well over 100.
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This question reminds me of a subject that comes up periodically. If you could find out now if you were at risk for certain diseases such as dementia, alzheimer's etc. would you want to know? I for one don't want to spoil my present by worrying about something that I may or may not get one day.

Certainly do all you can to live a long, healthy life but if you are going to get dementia, you are going to get it. My Mom didn't show signs of dementia till her late eighties. Signs that we could recognize at least. So, does that mean I will be like her? Who knows. I'll let you all know when I get there,if I remember.
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Your doctor is wrong. Some kinds of dementia probably have an inheritable genetic component, but that is not true of all kinds or most cases.

But here is something to think about: If you live past the age of 80, your chances of displaying dementia are somewhere around 50% (depending on the study you read). So if longevity runs in your family, you are more likely to live long enough to exhibit dementia than if you die in your early 70s (for example).

Science does not know the exact causes of each type of dementia. Oh, yes, we know that clumps of alpha-synuclein protein cause the symptoms of Lewy Body Dementia, but we do not yet know what causes the clumps of alpha-synuclein protein to form. It is not believed at this time to be an inherited trait.

Since we don't know what causes the dementia, how can we know how to prevent it? The best bet so far is maintain good health overall and to seek new experiences -- to keep growing new brain pathways to help minimize the consequences of having some of them damaged. According to some experts (who are guessing at this point) doing the same kind of puzzles over and over is not as helpful as doing some puzzles and learning to play an instrument and learning a card game, and traveling to a different culture, etc. etc. -- it is the NEW in "new experiences" that helps build brain pathways.

My husband is the only one in his family who developed dementia. On the other hand, he was the only one of 6 children who lived to the age when dementia usually starts. All of his sibs died of heart disease between the ages of 36 and 66. His father died of heart disease at age 45. The whole lot of them might have developed dementia if they'd lived longer.

There is much, much, we don't understand yet about dementia. Bocadebo, we know for certain that you are going to die of something. If you live long enough, there is a chance you may exhibit dementia. This is true, as far as we know now, regardless of your family history.
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Keep the brain active, such as memory puzzles.etc.
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I agree CM, from my reading most dementia is sporadic with no known family history, so the doctor's assertion that it is usually genetic is inaccurate.
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Hmm. Your primary doctor is, if I may say so, being a little simplistic. There are - how many are we up to? 28? 128? I've lost track - many different types of dementia, some associated with genetic vulnerabilities, some not.

In the future, we may well all be gene-mapped at birth and have life plans drawn up for us, and they may even work; and fingers crossed the promising antibody therapies they're currently working on may arrive in time for us, who knows? But meanwhile keep healthy anyway: you'll enjoy life more as well as for longer.
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Copied from the mayo clinic website:

You might be able to control the following risk factors of dementia.

Heavy alcohol use. If you drink large amounts of alcohol, you might have a higher risk of dementia. Some studies, however, have shown that moderate amounts of alcohol might have a protective effect.

Cardiovascular risk factors. These include high blood pressure (hypertension), high cholesterol, buildup of fats in your artery walls (atherosclerosis) and obesity.

Depression. Although not yet well-understood, late-life depression might indicate the development of dementia.

Diabetes. If you have diabetes, you might have an increased risk of dementia, especially if it's poorly controlled.

Smoking. Smoking might increase your risk of developing dementia and blood vessel (vascular) diseases.

Sleep apnea. People who snore and have episodes where they frequently stop breathing while asleep may have reversible memory loss.
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I don't know if you'll have dementia but I know what I'd do if I was you. I'd start reading up on eating a whole foods, plant-based, no oil diet. There are a lot of sites that all have lots of information and videos about this way of eating. None of this costs anything.

Without animal foods or added oils (including olive oil), you cut down on fats in your system, which keeps your veins and arteries from clogging up with fatty plaques. While it's not a guarantee, I personally believe it's the best way to keep yourself healthy and happy.

If you're on Facebook, join the group McDougall Friends and get a TON of support and information (and pictures) about recipes to eat this way. People on whole foods plant-base no oil diets reverse Type 2 diabetes, lose weight, get cholesterols down to very healthy levels, reduce arthritis pain, and on and on. It's a lifestyle intervention that involves no medications or money. Just healthy food.
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