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Business of Health Care: Fear of Dementia

Michael Hagerty

About half of middle-aged Americans believe they’re “somewhat” or “very likely” to develop dementia, a University of Michigan survey suggests.

And many try to beat the odds with supplements such as ginkgo biloba and vitamin E that are not proven to help.

A separate poll found that older patients fear dementia more than cancer. Despite this fear, only about 5 percent said they had discussed dementia prevention with their doctor.

There is no scientifically proven way to prevent dementia. Despite that, about a third said they took fish oil or omega-3 fatty acids hoping that it would help lower their risk, and about the same number took other vitamins or supplements.

More than half of those surveyed also believed doing crossword puzzles could help stave off dementia.

The reality is that less than 2 percent of the U.S. population has Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The risk factors that can raise your risk are: aging, smoking, uncontrolled diabetes, high blood pressure, drinking too much alcohol, and having close family members who had dementia.

Addressing these risk factors — other than genetics — should be the first priority.

Researchers point out that overestimating your own risk combined with an embrace of ineffective preventive measures could lead to a lot of wasteful spending.

You can further minimize your risk – and maximize the use of your resources – by living a healthy lifestyle that includes exercise, a nutritious diet, connecting with others socially, and learning new skills.

This report, and other episodes, are available at Business of Health Care is a production of KWBU and Baylor Scott & White Health. 

Glenn Robinson has been the President of Baylor Scott & White Medical Center – Hillcrest since September 2007. He previously held several CEO positions at hospitals in Texas, Oregon, and South Carolina. A Georgia native and graduate of the University of Alabama, Glenn completed graduate school at Trinity University in San Antonio, Texas.