Dementia: Dr Sara on benefits of being in nature
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The threat of dementia is ever-present, but tools to tackle the condition remain limited. There is evidence that picking up the condition early enables sufferers and their families to plan ahead. It can be hard, however, to differentiate between signs of cognitive decline and signs of ageing. One early complication of dementia may include anxiety, which is more pronounced in the afternoon or evening.
According to the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, dementia is a general term for the “impaired ability to remember, think, or make decisions that interfere with doing even activities”.One of the symptoms associated with the disease is sundowning, so-called because it typically worsens in the late afternoon.
The syndrome can cause a variety of behaviours, such as confusion, anxiety, aggression or ignoring directions.
Hallucinations or delusions are other possible symptoms of sundowning, which may continue into the night and disrupt the quality of sleep.
The Mayo Clinic explains: “Sundowning isn’t a disease, but a group of symptoms that occur at a specific time of the day that may affect people with dementia, such as Alzheimer’s disease.”
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Occasionally, it may also lead to pacing or wandering, or increased anxiety.
Anxiety has previously been described as one of the earliest signs of Alzheimer’s, with neurologists suggesting the sign may appear years before the onset of the condition.
Emer MacSweeney, Neuroradiologist and CEO of Re-cognition Health, previously told Express.co.uk: “People diagnosed with Mild Cognitive Impairment due to Alzheimer’s disease, when questioned, will frequently admit to having experienced unexplained anxiety and short-term memory loss.”
These symptoms, explained Doctor MacSweeney, can appear as early as 18 months to two years before the cognitive deficits of Alzheimer’s disease become more apparent.
Doctor Emer added: “It is important to recognise that people over the age of 60 who develop anxiety for the first time, with no obvious reason, could be showing an early feature of Alzheimer’s.”
While patients may display confusion and agitation in the late afternoon and evening, symptoms may be less pronounced earlier in the day.
The reasons for sundowning, also known as late-day confusion, remain poorly understood.
The Mayo Clinic, however, explains that certain factors could aggravate the symptoms.
These include low lighting, increased shadows, fatigue, disruption to the body’s internal clock, difficulty separating reality from dreams, and the presence of an infection in the body.
When people do display signs of agitation, the National Institute of Ageing advises listening to their concerns or frustrations calmly.
The healthy body adds: “Try to reassure the person that everything is OK and distract him or her from stressful or upsetting events.”
How to avoid dementia Alzheimer’s disease, the most common form of dementia, is characterised by clumps of tau and amyloid-beta protein in the brain, that progressively kill cells.
Growing evidence asserts that a healthy lifestyle can ward off the disease.
Getting enough sleep, and adhering to a diet that emphasises wholegrain, legumes, fish, fruits and vegetables, can protect the brain.
It is equally important, however, to keep the brain sharp by learning new things and connecting socially.
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