Dr. Chad Sato
Hawai‘i Herald Columnist
The dreaded “D” word, dementia, as we get older is a fear that is real for many. Unable to make clear, rational decisions or, further, unable to have recollection of what one just did an hour ago is on the rise. Or the assumption that as one gets older, dementia is an unavoidable reality for everyone to endure and go through, some people more predisposed to this fate than others due to genetics or past lifestyle choices. Fear begins when you stop remembering people’s names and faces, appointments, phone number and other things you have on your daily tasks – chalk it up to getting older. In one of my past articles, I shared one of the main reasons why we begin to forget things as we age, is because the things we forget are just not that important anymore. Take a big breath in and breathe out to reset. Dementia doesn’t have to be your fate, so hopefully what I share in this article can bring some mental and emotional peace of mind.
Like anything there are the upsides and downsides of everything. Throughout the years in my practice, I have witnessed all forms of dementia and this condition also hits very close to home. My maternal grandmother had it, and now my mother has been dealing with this challenging condition for the past several years. However, one thing that my mother did prior to the onset of her dementia is exclaim how she was just like her mother, so in some shape or form, she may have created a self-fulfilling prophecy. So, as a recommendation – be more conscious of the words that you use and be aware of your self-talk. The more you focus on something, the more you may manifest and create it in your life.
The purpose of this article is to provide some mind-body insights to dementia and hopefully help you to make some proactive choices if you find your memory being challenged or dealing with a loved one whose memory is starting to fade. I will share how dementia presents, some possible causes for dementia and then by using mindfulness and tuning into your body’s signals may help you navigate this supposed part of the aging process more gracefully. You have the power to create your future, so take the reins and make it an amazing one!
Aspects of dementia
According to the Mayo Clinic’s website: “Dementia is a term used to describe a group of symptoms affecting memory, thinking and social abilities.”
We often associate dementia with memory loss, but dementia has a broad spectrum of symptoms that present cognitively and psychologically:
Cognitive changes – Memory issues, communication problems, time and spatial issues: difficulty with solving problems or reasoning; difficulty with tasks, lack of organizing and following sequentially, clumsy and lack of movement control and moments of confusion and being disoriented.
Psychological changes – altered personality, increased anxiousness and irritability, bizarre behavior, increased paranoia and hallucinations or problems with recognition. It’s been observed that several diseases can cause dementia. Just know that memory loss by itself isn’t dementia and Alzheimer’s disease is known as the most common cause of dementia in the elderly, but other factors can cause dementia, which by addressing can help to reverse some dementia symptoms.
Dementia is typically caused by damage to or loss of nerve cells and connections in the brain. There are progressive dementias where symptoms worsen over time such as Alzheimer’s disease (linked to apolipoprotein E4 [APOE]), vascular dementia, Lewy Body dementia, traumatic brain injuries, to name a few, and have been noted as being irreversible. Reversible causes of dementia are as follows: chronic infections; a prolonged high fever; immune disorders such as multiple sclerosis; metabolic problems caused by thyroid issues or low blood sugar, certain depletion of nutrients and minerals – thiamin, vitamin B-6, vitamin B-12, copper and vitamin E; low water intake, which leads to dehydration; adverse side effects of medicines; a brain bleed following a fall; and buildup of fluids in the brain.
The fascinating part about dementia is that even if you have a family history of dementia, it doesn’t mean that you will develop it. You may have a greater risk, but there has been no direct correlation of dementia being passed down by genetics. Even though dementia appears to show more often as we get older, it also appears in younger demographics as well. The elements you do have control over to decrease the risk of developing dementia are first, living a healthy lifestyle, which has been shown by research to lower your risk of cognitive decline. By staying active and maintaining social interaction helps to keep mental decline at bay. Second thing is your diet – more whole grains, nuts, vegetables and omega oils were discovered to help with maintaining cognitive function and awareness; limiting alcohol consumption is recommended as several studies have shown the negative impacts of alcohol on brain function and elevating the risk of dementia. Unmonitored and poorly controlled diabetes can also increase the risk of dementia along with having a compromised cardiovascular system. Make sure you have adequate amounts of restful sleep and limit sleeping aids or sedatives, which contain diphenhydramine or oxybutynin that have been shown to affect your memory.
Addressing any fears that you have around developing dementia is highly recommended. The reason being is that even if you try not to think about it, your subconscious mind is receiving information about dementia and does not judge between good or bad. Furthermore, have you noticed that anything you are worried or fearful of tends to manifest sometime in your life? You can blame it on Murphy’s law, whether it be coincidence, but it appears to me that we tend to attract those events or situations in our life that we try to avoid or suppress. So, the one technique I have learned that helps to shift your fear is to make a list, and if that fear should manifest, how would it benefit you and your loved ones. When your brain sees a list of 15 or more benefits for a possible fear that you don’t want to experience, it equilibrates your emotions and you have less to no fear of that event happening. Another way you can use your emotions is to create an affirmation such as “I take care of myself and stay mentally sharp and focused” that you say daily. By attaching a strong emotion such as love, or joy is the necessary juice that helps you to manifest your affirmation.
I have already suggested making an effort in being conscious of the thoughts that you entertain or what you speak about the most. Avoid creating self-fulfilling prophecies by being deliberate in the thoughts you choose to have. Other practical ways to use your mind is to keep it active by learning new information, solve puzzles, word solve and not spending hours in front of the television. Research something that piques your interest and try to use your non-dominant hand to write or eat with. Meet with friends and have stimulating conversations either in person or virtually. Limit the amount of screen time and once a week immerse yourself in nature – to ground and center yourself. Just like working out at the gym and building muscles, you need to do things to exercise your brain.
The old saying, “what goes around comes around,” is appropriate to address the spiritual element of dementia. I came across a study years ago that when MRI’s were taken of multiple individuals with different stages of dementia, the brain scans looked like tangled yarns of thread. This is where I became acutely aware that speaking your truth not only helps you keep a disciplined spiritual practice, but it also helps to keep your mind clear. My theory is that whenever you don’t say your full truth, your brain stores two files of the situation. For example, if you are not feeling good and someone asks you how you are doing and your reply is “I am doing fine or great,” your mind creates two file versions and then backs it up in storage. Even repeating the same story repeatedly, due to new experiences and realizing how you perceive the same story and recounting it will change over time,your mind must create a new file each time. After a while your brain has a harder time to reconcile which story is the true or the modified one. This is my theory, but in essence it is always good to speak your truth and know yourself.
The power that you possess is the ability to make choices and act if you want to prevent cognitive decline. Age is not the reason for dementia as studies have yet to show a true correlation between the two, so what you choose to do is up to you. Your future is determined by the decisions and actions you take today. Know and honor yourself and take care of your mind, because it’s a precious asset that shouldn’t be taken for granted.
Dr. Chad Sato graduated from UCLA in 1995 with a bachelor’s degree in biology and earned the Doctor of Chiropractic degree with honors from Life Chiropractic College West in 1998. Sato founded his practice, Aloha Chiropractic (drchadsato.com), in Mänoa valley, O‘ahu, on Oct. 1, 1999. He is a sought-after educator, speaker, author and mind-body specialist who helps people reach new levels of empowerment when it comes to their health and wellness by staying present with their body signs, making appropriate life choices and utilizing stress instead of managing it.