The conversations of life

Could a “personal trainer” for your brain help to prevent dementia?

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A new US program says it is doing just that – with a doctor working one-on-one with patients to reduce their risk.

Professor James Galvin, a neuroscientist at Florida Atlantic University, is currently running a two-year trial with 100 people– the youngest 61 and the oldest 86.

But unlike normal medical trials where patients are given the same treatment, he’s taking a personalised approach similar to the one often used in cancer.

Each participant receives an individualised prevention plan tailored to their risk profile, based on genetics, blood, imaging and x-ray results, socio-demographics, lifestyle factors and existing medical conditions see what they can change that may cut their risk of developing dementia.

This includes managing chronic conditions, depression, sleep and lifestyle factors such as exercise, diet, smoking and alcohol.

One size doesn’t fit all

The idea is to treat the disease as one that develops over a lifetime – rather than waiting for symptoms to appear.

It makes sense. Previous research has shown that multiple medical conditions can increase your risk of brain degeneration and dementia.

Currently there are only four medications that treat the symptoms of dementia – and they don’t affect the course of the disease.

It is important to remember that at the age of 85, you have a 42 per cent risk of developing dementia. That leaves 58 per cent of us who won’t develop it.

But with recent research showing one-third of dementia cases could be prevented, it can’t hurt to think about what we can do to build a better brain now.

Annie Donaldson

With a background in nursing, Annie has spent over 20 years working in the health industry, including the coordination of medical support for international TV productions and major stadium events, plus education campaigns with a number of national health organisations. In recent years, she has also taken time out of the workforce to be a full-time carer, giving her first-hand experience of the challenges and rewards of this role.


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