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Stalked by the fear that dementia is stalking you

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One of her sisters was tested for the APOE4 genetic variant; the results were negative. This does not guarantee a dementia-free future, however, as hundreds of genes are involved in Alzheimer’s disease, Lewy body dementia, frontotemporal dementia and vascular dementia.

Rather than undergoing genetic or neuropsychological tests, Ms. Super focused on learning as much as she could about how to protect her brain. At the top of the list: manage your depression as well as your stress. Both have been linked to dementia.

Additionally, Ms. Super exercises regularly and eats what is called a MIND-style diet, which is rich in vegetables, berries, whole grains, nuts, fish, and beans. She learns French (a form of cognitive stimulation), meditates regularly and is socially and intellectually active.

According to a growing body of research, physical inactivity, hearing loss, depression, obesity, high blood pressure, smoking, social isolation, diabetes, and low levels of education increase the risk of dementia. All of these factors are changeable.

What if Ms. Super started to have memory problems? “I’m afraid I’m getting really depressed,” she admitted. “Alzheimer’s disease is such a horrible disease: to see what the people you love are going through, especially at the beginning, when they are aware of what is going on but can’t do anything about it, is excruciating. I’m not sure I want to go through this.

Northwestern’s Dr Gefen said she told patients that if cognitive testing “is something that’s going to stress you out, then don’t do it.”

Credit…Courtesy of Nigel Smith

Nigel Smith, 49, changed his mind after caring for his mother, Nancy Smith, 81, who is in hospice care in the Boston area with Alzheimer’s disease. When he brought his mother for a neuropsychological exam in early 2017 and she was diagnosed with moderate Alzheimer’s disease, she was furious. At that time, her mother was still living in the large family home in Brookline, Massachusetts, which she refused to leave.

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