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Reducing the risk of dementia


The Public Health Agency of Canada says there are actions Canadians can take to reduce the risk of dementia.

The 2020 report from the Lancet Commission estimates that there are 12 modifiable risk factors that account for 40 per cent of cases of dementia worldwide.

"We're somewhere around half a million people that have been diagnosed and are living with Alzheimer's or dementia," said science writer and broadcaster Jay Ingram.

“Those numbers are going to rise, though, with the baby boomers getting older and more susceptible at 65 and 70 years old.”

Ingram has signed on as a spokesperson for the health agency for a second straight year. He's studied the issue and said it's something people need to take seriously.

"The vast majority of all dementias -- and there are several -- is Alzheimer's,” he said.

“Alzheimer's is about 70 to 75 per cent of the total but there are others and clearly that's an important issue going forward because at the moment there are no treatments for any of them.”

At one point, the disease could only be diagnosed post-mortem, but Ingram said advances in science are being made.

While there is no cure for dementia, he said there are risk factors people can focus on to mitigate some of the issues they might face or the symptoms.

Ingram said he would focus on “common-sense” steps that anyone can take.

"Don't smoke -- smoking is a specific risk for dementia,” he said.

“There has been some new stuff about alcohol, basically I think until the numbers actually settle, don't drink too much and figure out a way that if you're drinking more than two drinks a day, figure out a way of alternating a beer with a non-alcoholic beer. Stay fit -- super important -- and as you get older, maintain social contacts."

Ingram said hearing loss is one of the biggest risks and hearing aids help to counteract social isolation.

"The more you stimulate your brain, the better," he said.

Even if reducing the risk only delays the onset of dementia, Ingram said adding five or 10 years helps with quality of life and eases the burden on the health care system.

"It's an incredibly stressful job and if we can lighten the load on caregivers by doing this, there are benefits across the board," he said.

No one is seeing the prevalent rise in dementia more these days in Northeastern Ontario than the Alzheimer's Society.


The Sault Ste. Marie/Algoma chapter reports a 44 per cent increase in the number of referrals since moving to its new location in 2021.

"The pandemic has had a wide effect on people living with dementia, for reasons such as social isolation for example, depression, not having access to services like adult day programs for example,” said spokesperson Terry Caporossi.

“And it's really our role to make sure we're providing those services as that continuum of care."

Caporossi said they're seeing people who are worried about their cognitive health. He echoes Ingram's message on staying socially active, getting a good night's sleep and maintaining a healthy diet to mitigate some risks.

"I think having an opportunity to participate in supports and services through the Alzheimer's Society … we all offer a variety of services that can help those living with dementia and their caregivers," he said.

"The easiest thing and sometimes the hardest thing is sometimes making that initial phone call. Here in Sault Ste. Marie, we take people who walk in and inquire about those services."

January is Alzheimer's month but he said they work to try and promote their services year-round.

"We have to be able to meet those needs, additional funding for example to support the services that we offer right across our country and it's going to be important to keep up with demands," he said.

"We have to be prepared for this (the influx), it'll certainly cost the health care system a great amount of money if we're not prepared. I think that the awareness is a very important part of us being able to support education, training for persons living with dementia and their care partners." Top Stories

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