Preventing Dementia and Cognitive Decline

Newsletter | Aug 18, 2017 | Hook Law Center

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine (NAS) have recently published a report which indicates that it may be possible to prevent dementia and age-related cognitive decline. Just seven years ago, scientists were unwilling to recommend or endorse any interventions, but the most recent findings are encouraging.

The three strategies recommended for preventing dementia and cognitive decline are being physically active, engaging in cognitive training (education, mental stimulation, and cognitive exercises), and controlling high blood pressure. There are other strategies warranting research – engaging in social activities, getting adequate sleep, maintaining a healthful diet, and managing depression, for example – but more research is required before they may be formally recommended.

The NAS report indicates that the three recommended strategies have been found to work in some situations, but not others. For example, cognitive training and physical activity were found to have the potential to delay age-related cognitive decline, but not dementia; and the only strategy identified as a potential way to prevent or delay Alzheimer’s disease is managing high blood pressure, although this strategy appears to have no impact on age-related cognitive decline.

These findings are encouraging, although more research is required before we can fully understand the causes of and potential interventions for dementia and age-related cognitive decline. Because the biological changes associated with some types of dementia begin ten years or more before any symptoms appear, individuals can lower their risk by making healthy lifestyle changes early – as early as when individuals reach their 40s. Furthermore, because Alzheimer’s and related dementias often have several causes, scientists recommend individuals implement several strategies to prevent or reduce age-related cognitive decline or dementia, not just one.

To review the NAS’ complete report, visit:

Ask Kit Kat – Suburban Deer

Hook Law Center:  Kit Kat, is there a problem with too many deer in the suburbs?

Kit Kat:  Well, that might depend on whom you ask. Take, for example, the town of Oakton, VA. Three neighbors have completely different ideas about the subject. One loves deer and has a deer feeder in her yard. Another permits bow hunters on her property to cull the deer. The third has installed an 8-ft fence to keep the deer out. That kind of sums up the range of reactions to deer in the suburbs. Overall, the number of deer in the Northern Virginia suburbs has been declining. Where there are active deer management programs, there is a definite decline in the number of deer.

Kevin R. Rose, a district wildlife biologist at the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (VDGIF), has the following advice regarding deer. First, do NOT feed deer under any circumstances. Besides the fact that it is illegal to feed deer in many localities from Sept. 1 to the end of April, it causes them to artificially congregate, which increases the likelihood of disease transmission. Food also attracts other animals than deer, like raccoons, which are rabies carriers. Bears are also attracted to feeding stations. Feeding bears, at least in Virginia, is illegal at any time of year. Deer are perfectly capable of feeding themselves, even if they have to forage off of evergreens, twigs, and tree bark. He also discourages providing deer with salt licks. Those, too, artificially congregate deer in specific places.

When asked about the most effective way to thin deer populations in suburban areas, Mr. Rose responded that the quickest way is sharpshooting. However, this method is not permitted in every locality, nor in every neighborhood of every locality. Local ordinances regulate the use of firearms. A more effective method is through the use of bow and arrow. Though slower, archery has proven very effective in Fairfax County, VA which has an organized program.

In conclusion, while deer are very attractive, gentle creatures, it appears best to not interfere with their normal rhythms of life. It may seem harsh, but there is a balance in nature which we must respect. (Kevin Ambrose, “Oh, deer, what should we do? Addressing the suburban deer dilemma.” The Washington Post, Capital Weather Gang section, August 3, 2017)

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