What Can You Do
Although there is no effective treatment or proven prevention for Alzheimers and related dementias, in general, leading a healthy lifestyle may help address risk factors that have been associated with these diseases.
Researchers cannot say for certain whether making the above lifestyle changes will protect against dementia, but these changes are good for your health and are all part of making healthy choices as you age.
Dementia Prevention: Reduce Your Risk Starting Now
Dementia is defined by loss of memory, problems with thinking and reasoning, and an inability to carry on with work and life activities independently. There are several kinds of dementia. Alzheimers disease is the most common, but for up to a third of people with dementia, even some of those diagnosed with Alzheimers, vascular disease is a major cause.
The good news is you can lower your risk of dementia. A Johns Hopkins neurologist, explains how.
Can Alzheimer’s Disease Be Prevented
Alzheimer’s disease is a brain condition that impacts memory, thinking, and behavior. It is a progressive and irreversible form of dementia that is the fifth leading cause of death for adults over 65. There is also no cure for the condition, which is why people often wonder if there is any way to prevent Alzheimer’s disease.
So far, research has not found a definitive way to prevent or even delay the disease. Researchers have, however, uncovered a few different strategies that hold promise in the prevention of the condition, although more studies are needed to learn more.
This article explores whether Alzheimer’s can be prevented, including some of the factors that researchers believe impact the onset of the condition.
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S To Reduce Alzheimers Risk
Practices thought to delay or help prevent Alzheimers disease should be as familiar to you as the healthy lifestyle habits youve heard about for years. The top five Alzheimers prevention tips are:
Research is ongoing, but a number of studies have shown that moving every day may help reduce cognitive decline, and the same thing is true for eating a whole foods-based diet rich in fruits and vegetables. These practices in turn help lower your blood pressure, and compromised vascular health has also been linked to Alzheimers.
The most enjoyable part of this anti-Alzheimers prescription is keeping your brain busy with puzzles, hobbies like playing a musical instrument, and spending time doing things with people you enjoy.
Because these tips are advised for staving off many other health conditions, theyre neither foreign nor unreasonably difficult. And knowing they could help defend you from an Alzheimers diagnosis may up your motivation factor exponentially.
Pillar #: Vascular Health
Theres more and more evidence to indicate that whats good for your heart is also good for your brain. Maintaining your cardiovascular health can be crucial in protecting your brain and lowering your risk for different types of dementia, including Alzheimers disease and vascular dementia. And of course, addressing heart-health issues can also help you to lower your risk for a future heart attack or stroke.
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What Do We Know About Reducing Risk For Dementia
The number of older Americans is rising, so the number of people with dementia is predicted to increase. However, some studies have shown that incidence rates of dementia meaning new cases in a population over a certain period of time have decreased in some locations, including in the United States. Based on observational studies, factors such as healthy lifestyle behaviors and higher levels of education may be contributing to such a decline. But the cause and effect is uncertain, and such factors need to be tested in a clinical trial to prove whether they can prevent dementia.
A review of published research evaluated the evidence from clinical trials on behavior and lifestyle changes to prevent or delay Alzheimers or age-related cognitive decline. The review found encouraging but inconclusive evidence for three types of behavioral changes : physical activity, blood pressure control, and cognitive training. The findings mean that interventions in these areas are promising enough that researchers should keep studying them to learn more. Researchers continue to explore these and other interventions to determine whether and in what amounts or forms they might prevent dementia.
Watch a video below that highlights conclusions and recommendations from the research review.
The Link Between Air Pollution And Dementia
Air pollution isnt just harmful for our respiratory health: Emerging evidence shows that people who are exposed to air pollution are at a higher risk of dementia. In fact, people who live close to major roads and freeways, have higher odds of developing dementia. And some scientists have suggested that exposure to air pollution can lead to brain inflammation.
Heres what you can do: Avoid the outdoors when air pollution levels are high, Larson said, such as instances of wildfires. Meanwhile, researchers urge policy makers to consider increasing peoples access to green spaces, reducing traffic and the number of highways in residential areas.
Read more about past research on the link between heart disease, Alzheimers, and air pollution
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A Look At The Evidence
Studies that observed changes in thinking of people who ate the Mediterranean or MIND diet suggest it might help the brain. For example:
- In one observational study of 116 cognitively normal adults, those who followed a Mediterranean diet had thicker cortical brain regions than those who did not. These brain regions shrink in people with Alzheimers, so having thicker regions could mean cognitive benefit.
- A follow-up observational study showed lower glucose metabolism and higher levels of beta-amyloid protein both seen in Alzheimers in people who did not follow the Mediterranean diet closely, compared to those who did.
- An analysis of diet and other factors found that, after an average of 4.5 years, people who adhered most closely to the MIND diet had a 53% reduced rate of Alzheimers disease compared to those who did not follow the diet closely.
- In a similar study, following the MIND diet was associated with a substantial slowing of cognitive decline during an average of almost 5 years.
- The Age-Related Eye Disease Studies originally looked at diet and eye disease. Further analysis by the researchers showed that people who followed the Mediterranean-style diet had a lower risk of developing cognitive problems while maintaining a higher level of cognitive function.
How The Evidence Stacks Up For Preventing Alzheimers Disease
Alzheimers disease has long been considered an inevitable consequence of ageing that is exacerbated by a genetic predisposition. Increasingly, however, it is thought to be influenced by modifiable lifestyle behaviours that might enable a persons risk of developing the condition to be controlled. But even as evidence to support this idea has accumulated over the past decade, the research community has been slow to adopt the idea.
This reluctance was obvious as recently as 2010, when the US National Institutes of Health brought together a panel of 15 researchers to consider the state of research on preventing Alzheimers disease, at a conference in Bethesda, Maryland. Tantalizing findings had begun to emerge that suggested that behavioural choices such as engaging in physical exercise, intellectual stimulation and healthy eating could reduce the risk of brain degeneration. In a 2006 study that followed more than 2,200 people in New York for four years, researchers found that people who adhered to a Mediterranean diet full of whole grains, fruit and vegetables, fish and olive oil had an up to 40% lower risk of dementia than people who ate more dairy products and meat.
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Why Are Social Activities Good For The Brain
Having a conversation with someone can also exercise a wide range of your mental skills, for example:
- actively listening to and communicating with the other person
- considering the meaning of what someone is trying to tell you and how they feel
- finding the right way to express what you want to say and putting words together in the right order for someone to understand
- recalling things that have happened which are relevant to what youre talking about.
Keep On Top Of Your Health
Depression, hearing loss and even low levels of sleep have all been linked to a greater incidence of dementia , so getting control of these as they occur can reduce the risk of developing dementia in later life. Blood pressure, cholesterol and weight are also important to maintain at a healthy level as you get older. Regularly having check ups as you get older can also help spot any issues as soon as they present, often improving the outcome, even in dementia.
If you think that mum, dad or a close elderly relative is showing early signs of dementia it is definitely worth exploring a lasting power of attorney sooner rather than later.
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Supplements To Prevent Alzheimers
Eating well is probably the best way to prevent Alzheimers, but sometimes its difficult to make sure we receive all the nutrients we need. Supplements are called supplements for a reason. They can really help in our war with disease.
Here are some supplements that can really make a difference in brain health:
Studies show Sulfurophane has reduced the Amyloid Beta and Tau plaques in the brain. These two proteins that form plaques are one of the biggest issues with people who contract Alzheimers.
Is it any wonder that the lowest rates of Alzheimers in the world are in rural India, where curry is a staple of their diet?
Lifestyle Changes For Brain Health
Globally renowned researcher Dr. Laura Baker of the Wake Forest School of Medicine describes the following strategies for reducing Alzheimers risk:
- Exercise: Exercise has been shown to reduce the risk for dementias. However, we dont yet know what frequency and level of intensity is required to reduce your risk. If you exercise now, try increasing the intensity of what you do. No age is too old to start.
- Diet: Studies to date suggest that keto and Mediterranean diets may be beneficial to brain health.
- Mental exercise: We have seen mental challenge in animal studies produce a change in brain structure and greater resistance to aging processes at the cellular level. Keeping mentally challenged can mean crosswords, number puzzles, meeting a new person, going to a different park, reading a new bookthere are many ways to challenge your mind.
Several key studies 60461-5″ rel=”nofollow”> FINGER and SPRING MIND studies) have taken place showing positive results on cognitive functioning through these lifestyle changes, and even more studies are underway.
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Whats Next With Dementia Prevention Research
More research is needed to find ways to help prevent Alzheimers and related dementias. Future research may determine that specific interventions are needed to prevent or delay the disease in some people, but others may need a combination of treatments based on their individual risk factors. Understanding risk factors and choices you can make now is important for both your present and future health. In addition to this website, consider the resources listed below to learn more.
You can also help researchers learn more about preventing dementia by participating in clinical trials and studies. Search the Alzheimers.gov Clinical Trials Finder to find studies that need volunteers.
Look On The Bright Side: Dementia Prevention
Of Americans 65 and older, about 20 to 25 percent have mild cognitive impairment and about 10 percent have dementia. People often ask if rates of dementia are rising, or falling. It depends on how you look at it. The prevalenceofdementiain the US from 11.6% in 2000 to 8.8% in 2012 in the U.S., likely because of increases in education and cardiovasular heath, according to research co-authored by ADRC’s Dr. Eric B. Larson. Nonetheless, the number of cases of people living with dementia is actually rising. Longer life expectancies, thanks to progress in preventing and treating heart disease and cancer, has led to an expanding population of the oldest groups of people. As baby boomers age, the number of individuals over 65 with Alzheimer-type dementia will triple to 13.8 million by 2050, incurring a trillion dollars of direct and indirect costs to the economy and families.
Pramila Jayapal discusses ADRC research aimed at preventing Alzheimer’s disease dementia
According to Dr. Thomas Grabowski, Director of the UW ADRC, prevention of dementia will be a powerful solution. The incidence of Alzheimer’s disease-type dementia doubles every 5 years after age 65, and so if we could delay onset by 5 years, we could cut the number of cases in half, and by inference, we could cut dementia-related costs in half, he said in a testimony for the 2017 Senate appropriations subcommittee hearing on NIH medical research.
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Education And Cognitive Health
Receiving more education in early life mayreduce risk of dementia. According to Lon Schneider, an author of the report and professor of psychiatry, neurology, and gerontology at the University of Southern California, the more we learn, the more cognitive reserve we build up. While connections between brain cells, also known as synapses, may falter due to aging and sickness, You have more reserves to start with, so youre more resilient against illnesses, said Schneider.
Heres what you can do: Engaging in intellectual activities later in life can potentially help maintain cognitive abilities. One study in China which found people older than the age of 65 who read, played games or bet more frequently were less likely to develop dementia. Another study showed that people who participated in intellectual, physical and social activities in midlife were more likely to have better cognition in old age.
Read more about past research on the link between early childhood education and Alzheimers disease, the most common form of dementia.
What Are Risk Factors
A risk factor is something that may increase the chance of developing a disease. Some risk factors can be controlled while others cannot. For example, a person is not able to control their age, which is the greatest known risk factor for Alzheimers and related dementias. Another uncontrollable risk factor is a persons genes. Genes are structures in our bodys cells that are passed down from a persons birth parents. Changes in genes even small changes can cause diseases.
Race and gender are also factors that influence risk. Research shows that African Americans, American Indians, and Alaska Natives have the highest rates of dementia, and that risk factors may differ for women and men. Researchers are investigating whats behind these differences.
However, people do have control over their behavior and lifestyle, which can influence their risk for certain diseases. For example, high blood pressure is a major risk factor for heart disease. Lowering blood pressure with lifestyle changes or medication can help reduce a persons risk for heart disease and heart attack.
For Alzheimers and related dementias, no behavior or lifestyle factors have risen to the level of researchers being able to say: This will definitely prevent these diseases. But there are promising avenues.
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Dietary Methods To Prevent Alzheimers
The number 1 form of Alzheimers prevention seems to be diet. Here are some choices you can make that can really help:
is a preventable disease. It surprises me at my core that no ones talking about the fact that so many of these devastating neurological problems are, in fact, modifiable based upon lifestyle choices What weve crystallized it down to now, in essence, is that diets that are high in sugar and carbohydrates, and similarly diets that are low in fat, are devastating to the brain.When you have a diet that has carbohydrates in it, you are paving the way for Alzheimers disease. I want to be super clear about that. Dietary carbohydrates lead to Alzheimers disease. Its a pretty profound statement, but its empowering nonetheless when we realize that we control our diet. We control our choices, whether to favor fat or carbohydrates.
The authors concluded:
How Alzheimers Affects Women Differently
Its not exactly clear why women are more affected by Alzheimers than men, but there may be several factors at play. According to Dr. Caldwell, women tend to decline faster than men after receiving a diagnosis for Alzheimers. Women typically live longer than men, too, and while the No. 1 risk factor for Alzheimers is aging, that may not be the whole story.
Some of the reasons might be artifacts of our diagnostic systems, says Dr. Caldwell. For example, we know women tend to have better verbal memory than men, and our tests rely on verbal memory. So, it is possible that women dont get diagnosed as early because our tests miss those important verbal memory changes.
In addition, menopause and estrogen loss are a huge area of investigation for Alzheimers because estrogen supports an area of the brain responsible for forming new memories. Its this part of the brain thats first targeted when Alzheimers develops, so as women age, they may be even more affected. Plus, women have a greater increase in Alzheimers risk, compared to men, when they carry a gene associated with late-onset Alzheimers. But on the other hand, there is a line of research that suggests having two X-chromosomes might put women at an advantage.
Theres not a simple, straightforward story, says Dr. Caldwell. We are going to have to look at Alzheimers as involving our genetics, our environment as well as our own behaviors.
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