Getting Answers: new research on preventing dementia and Alzheimer’s disease

New research suggests there may be ways to prevent the onset of dementia and Alzheimer's debilitating condition and help people maintain their cognitive health.
Published: May. 5, 2023 at 1:59 PM EDT
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SPRINGFIELD, MA (WGGB/WSHM) - As the population continues to age, dementia has become an increasingly prevalent and concerning issue. However, new research suggests that there may be ways to prevent the onset of the debilitating condition and help people maintain their cognitive health.

“Someone who use to be a vibrant individual loses pieces of themselves as time goes on,” said Dr. Mitchell Clionsky.

More than six million Americans of all ages have Alzheimer’s disease, the most common form of dementia. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, an estimated 6.7 million Americans are living with the disease this year. Despite how large these numbers are, experts said there’s more cases out there that aren’t accounted for.

“Only about half of doctors who are surveyed feel comfortable making a diagnosis of dementia, so they’re not reporting it,” Clionsky explained.

How can dementia be prevented? Western Mass News brought our questions to Clionsky, a local neuro psychologist, who along with his wife, Dr. Emily Clionsky, wrote the book “Dementia Prevention: Using Your Head to Save Your Brain.” He told us that there are simple steps towards prevention people can take to reduce the likelihood of the disease.

“They need to do things to help themselves, as much as we need to do things to help them,” Clionsky noted.

Clinosky said that staying active and socializing with others is the main step towards prevention. Not only does it keep your mental state sharp, but it reduces the risks of other diseases that can lead to dementia.

“The more that you are using your brain, the more you are creating new pathways, the better your brain is going to work,” Clionsky added.

Clionsky said things like Type II diabetes, high blood pressure, smoking, and sleep apnea can also increase the likelihood of the disease, but thankfully, he said one out of every two dementia cases - between 40 and 60 percent - are preventable. He added that the sooner you take steps towards prevention, the heathier you’ll be. It will also greatly reduce your risk of developing symptoms.

“Don’t be a dementia worrier, be a prevention warrior,” Clionsky explained.