One thing people worry about as they get older is getting the dreaded “A-word” disease, Alzheimer’s. Dementia, which is a much more inclusive term, is a major problem today and only will get worse tomorrow. Why? Because we are living longer than ever before and age is the biggest risk factor. It’s a global problem — it’s a tsunami of a disease.

But just like seat belts and better cars reduced deadly car accidents by 50 percent since I was a kid, there are things we can do, you can do, right now to reduce dementia.

The prestigious medical journal The Lancet convened the International Commission on Dementia Prevention, Intervention and Care to see what might be done. Gathering together some of the world’s premier scientists, researchers and clinicians in the field, they concluded that one out of three cases of dementia might be preventable. Wow, oh, wow!

We have been focused, focused, focused on drugs, supplements, vitamins, herbs and spices like turmeric and gingko biloba, thinking these might be the answer, when the answer could be right in front of our face. Anyone who is interested in keeping their mind in shape, take heed: These suggestions are the seat belt for your brain.

Some of the biggies are controlling your blood pressure and getting your cholesterol in check — that means following a more Mediterranean diet and taking blood pressure pills and statins if you need them. If you have diabetes, keep that under control, too.

Exercising is a must. Use alcohol in moderation. And if you smoke, the time has come to kick butt.

It turns out another way to help stave off dementia is to stay in school. Those who drop out before they’re 15 are at greater risk. This is substantiated by the long-running Framingham Heart Study that showed the same thing – education plays a major role.

Data shows that the rate of dementia has fallen over the last 30 years in all groups but high school dropouts. The conclusion here, to me, is Darwinian. From an evolutionary point of view, one who learns is more likely to be one who changes and adapts behavior as new information comes into view.

My spin: Listen up and take action — that will keep your brain happy. Stay well.

This column provides general health information and is not specific advice intended for particular individual(s). It is not a professional medical opinion or diagnosis. Always consult your personal health care provider about concerns. No ongoing relationship of any sort (including but not limited to any form of professional relationship) is implied or offered by Dr. Paster to people submitting questions.

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