Push Back Against Dementia


If you’re someone who worries about getting Alzheimer’s or dementia someday, you’ll want to hear how science, and specifically the work of Dr. Rob Sutherland, is proving that we can fight back against genetic predispositions of dementia.

Life With Dementia is here to share practical tips, personal stories and relevant research that can help us all understand dementia better; and how to support people living with it.

This episode’s guest is Dr. Rob Sutherland, of the University of Lethbridge. His current research investigates the neurobiology of learning, memory, and amnesia. In this interview he speaks about some fascinating scientific research around interventions in early stage dementia. I really enjoyed our conversation and discovered Rob has quick wit and a sly sense of humor. If you want to hear more of a deep dive into the academic side of our conversation, you can find an unedited version of this episode available through our Patreon page. I feel quite strongly that it’s an important mission of the Life With Dementia podcast to capture and share content that reaches listener ears in a very practical sense. I did my very best to break down some of the amazing nuggets of wisdom Dr. Sutherland tried to impart upon me; and I’ll admit – I may not have quite done it justice. But you know what – the more we hear; the more we talk; and the more we attempt to learn about dementia makes us better friends, family, and support systems for people all over the world who are touched by dementia.

What’s very exciting is very soon we are going to find powerful ways to interrupt the biological process of dementia. We don’t know where those answers are going to come from – but we can see the problems. And once you understand the problems, you have a chance to come up with ways of intervening that are important to stopping the process.

– Dr. Rob Sutherland

The ACTION STEPS I walked away with from this discussion are:

  1. EVEN IF you have genes that leantoward Alzheimer’s or dementia, as I spoke about in my last episode with my own mother, Dr. Sutherland clearly relayed today – you can PUSH BACK against these genetic factors and reduce your risk! I personally find this SUPER exciting because that’s good news for me! For my mom! And possibly my own children. This leads me to #2…
  2. There are certain “modifiable factors” that help reduce your risk. Dr. Sutherland mentioned some of them: correcting hearing loss, controlling blood pressure, healthy diets and other lifestyle changes. This is similar to yet another message we’ve heard on Life With Dementia Podcast, with guest  Jeff Burns of the KU Alzheimer’s Diseasecenter: Does Your Lifestyle Impact Your Risk of Dementia. Dr. Burns also shared specific modifiable factors that we can implement in our lives to help reduce risk. I hope this encourages you to take action – and incorporate some of the tips and advice shared about lifestyle factors. If you’re someone who worries about getting dementia, this is an easy first step. Don’t sit in idle fear. Take action toward a healthier lifestyle!
  3. The third thing I found interesting from Dr. Rob Sutherland’s message was that the higher your cognitive reservefunctions are the greater you reduce your risk of developing dementia, because your brain has that much more reserve to overcome the gray matter of dementia creeping in.  And what exactly is cognitive reserve you might ask? Harvard Health describes it as this: its something that is developed by a lifetime of education and curiosity to help your brain better cope with any failures or declines.  Rob mentioned how things like higher education; learning second language; playing a musical instrument; or travel at a young age can add to one’s cognitive reserve. If you can integrate these sorts of things early in your life, you expand the brain’s capacity to ward off dementia later in life – even if you have poor lifestyle factors and or a genetic predisposition toward dementia. Dr Sutherland explained that science has proven – cognitive reserve pushes back against dementia. It can help your brain develop new mechanisms to route around the barriers that dementia puts in place. For me, I take that quite literally as a charge to follow through on the desire that my children learn another language; or that I DO take them to see other parts of the world. Anything I can do to help reduce their risk of developing dementia is a good thing in my book! Maybe I already wanted to crate them around the world. But now I have extra incentive!
  4. Thanks for joining us on Life With Dementia, the solution-driven podcast sharing resources and support for living well with dementia.

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Music by Blue Dot Sessions “OneEightFour”

Photo by Luis Quintero on Unsplash