Can Acupuncture Help to Prevent Dementia?

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Whether you are a student trying to maximize your cognitive function while learning at university or a middle-aged person noticing how your memory isn’t as good as it used to be, this research on acupuncture and dementia may apply to you too!

Dementia is not a necessary consequence of aging alone.

A report released this month by the Alzheimer Society of Canada highlights that one of the greatest health challenges facing Canada’s aging society is dementia (1). According to this report, current trends predict that the number of Canadians living with dementia will triple by 2050. It’s true that some risk factors for dementia are out of our control – age, sex (women are at higher risk), and genetics. But, it is estimated that 40% of dementia cases are the result of risk factors that are actually within our control (2).

Acupuncture is a holistic system of supporting and promoting general health and wellbeing. Many of the effects of acupuncture – such as reduction in stress response, better quality of sleep, better ability to exercise through improving posture and muscle function, better weight management, supporting mental health, are the same types of effects that can also prevent or delay the onset of dementia. It is a lot about how acupuncture interacts with lifestyle choices; here’s why….

Adopting some simple and effective lifestyle choices in your 40s and beyond can actually go a long way toward reducing your chances of developing dementia later in life. It can also slow the process of deterioration and help your brain stay working longer and stronger, even if symptoms of dementia have already started to show up.

Recommendations from for preserving your brain health as you age include (3):

  • Regular exercise
  • Social engagement
  • Healthy diet
  • Mental stimulation
  • Quality sleep
  • Stress management
  • Protecting vascular health

Interestingly, a number of recent studies have shown relatively strong evidence that acupuncture can help to reduce the severity of symptoms of vascular dementia (4, 5). Animal and clinical studies have both demonstrated promising improvements in memory and cognition following acupuncture treatments (6).

As more studies are being done and more evidence accumulates, acupuncture is becoming increasingly recognized as a valid supportive therapy in a general sense that can work in conjunction with regular medical care to provide extra health benefits, but without interfering with meds or causing unpleasant side effects (7).

That’s the nature of a holistic modality like acupuncture – in addition to improving cognitive status, your treatments are already preventing dementia indirectly!  When you get acupuncture for back pain to keep you moving, or when we are adding some points for relieving stress so you can sleep better, you are addressing health issues that will help prevent dementia in the years ahead.

So whether you are trying to optimize your cognitive function or memory to perform better at school or work, or concerned about dementia in your senior years, acupuncture and lifestyle interact positively to serve both mind and body!

  1. Report 1: Navigating the path forward for dementia in Canada