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Dr. Sandra McHenry, standing, speaks on Dementia and Healthy Brain Habits during a recent presentation at the Mountain Crest Senior Community in Bath County. The program was sponsored by the Virginia Program for Aging Services. (Photo Courtesy Alleghany Highlands YMCA)

McHenry Speaks On Dementia, Healthy Brain Habits

Hot Springs, VA - Sandra McHenry, M.D., Alleghany Highlands YMCA Healthy Highlands program leader, recently spoke on Dementia and Healthy Brain Habits at the Mountain Crest Senior Community in Bath County. The program was sponsored by the Virginia Program for Aging Services.

Dr. McHenry explained that some minor memory loss and a decline in cognition are not unexpected as we get older. Do you sometimes forget where you put your glasses but later remember? Does it take you a little longer to learn a new skill? Is it occasionally tough to come up with the right word?

That’s not unusual. Dementia is defined as memory loss or cognitive decline that is significant enough to interfere with daily living. A recent study conducted by Columbia University found that about 1 in 10 individuals over the age of 65 have dementia, and 22 percent of people over 65 have Mild Cognitive Impairment, which is defined as some memory loss or impairment in cognition that is more than normal, but without significant disruption in activities of daily living. Individuals with MCI have an increased risk of developing dementia.

While Alzheimer’s is the most common form of dementia, accounting for 60-80 percent of cases, there are many other causes, and treatments vary, so any change in memory or cognition warrants a full evaluation.

Many factors contribute to the development of dementia, with age being the greatest risk factor, but significant memory loss as we get older isn’t always a given. Several studies show that staying active in mind, body and social interactions can help prevent or delay cognitive decline and memory loss as we age. It is also important to pay attention to certain risk factors for dementia, like diabetes, smoking, drinking and high blood pressure, which can be modified to significantly delay or even prevent memory loss. Even something as simple as correcting hearing loss with a hearing aid can lead to improved memory.

A 2020 report in Lancet, a British medical journal, identified 12 modifiable risk factors that contribute to 40 percent of dementia cases worldwide.

“We can’t fight aging, but we can stay vigilant about factors that can contribute to memory loss,” said Dr. McHenry. “We should also prioritize social engagement, physical activity and daily mental challenges.”

To schedule a “Dementia Discussions and Healthy Brain Habits” presentation for your group, contact Dr. McHenry at smchenryahymca@gmail.com.

The VPAS Hot Springs Café meets every Wednesday from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at Mountain Crest

Senior Community, 120 Spring Mountain Rd., Hot Springs. The Warm Springs Café meets every

Thursday from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. every Thursday at the Bath County Senior Center, 212 West Warm

Springs Drive, Warm Springs.

To learn more, contact Harmony Leonard, Bath and Highland Senior Services Director, at 540-468-2178 or email harmony@vpas.info

The Healthy Highlands program is headquartered at the Alleghany Highlands YMCA in Low Moor. For more information on the YMCA, call (540) 962-9622.


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