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.
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How To Prevent Wandering In Alzheimers Patients
Wandering is one of the most dangerous behaviors associated with Alzheimers disease. An Alzheimers patient who wanders outside alone can easily become lost, confused, injured, and even die from exposure to harsh weather or other safety risks.
An estimated 6 in 10 people with Alzheimers disease are at risk of wandering when they become confused or disoriented. This can happen at any stage of the disease. It is important to take steps to prevent wandering and know what to do in an emergency.
To prevent wandering, it helps to understand what causes a person with Alzheimers to wander.
Some common reasons for wandering are:
- Confusion: The person with Alzheimers disease doesnt realize that he is at home and sets out to find his home.
- Delusions: He may be reliving an anxiety or responsibility from the long-ago past, such as going to work or caring for a child.
- Escape from a real or perceived threat: A person with Alzheimers disease can be frightened by noise, a stranger who visits, or even the belief that his or her caregiver is trying to hurt him or her.
- Agitation: This is a common symptom of Alzheimers disease and it can be made worse by some medications. Boredom and restlessness also may be brought on by a lack of exercise and other stimulation, such as searching for a person, a place, or an item that was lost.
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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.
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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Reducing Your Risk Of Cardiovascular Disease
Cardiovascular disease has been linked with an increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease and vascular dementia.
You may be able to reduce your risk of developing these conditions as well as other serious problems, such as strokes and heart attacks by taking steps to improve your cardiovascular health.
- keeping alcohol to a minimum
- eating a healthy, balanced diet, including at least 5 portions of fruit and vegetables every day
- exercising for at least 150 minutes every week by doing moderate-intensity aerobic activity , or as much as you’re able to
- making sure your blood pressure is checked and controlled through regular health tests
- if you have diabetes, make sure you keep to the diet and take your medicine
Reducing Your Risk For Dementia
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As you age, you may have concerns about the increased risk of dementia. You may have questions, too. Are there steps I can take to prevent it? Is there anything I can do to reduce my risk? There are currently no approaches that have been proven to effectively treat or prevent Alzheimers disease and related dementias. However, as with many other diseases, there may be steps you can take to help reduce your risk.
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Take Your Brain For A Walk
Getting up and moving helps to keep your body and brain strong. Research is unclear on whether exercise prevents dementia, but there are many studies that suggest regular activity is good for your brain. One even showed low dementia risk among very fit women. Physical activity helps prevent other health conditions linked to dementia including:
- High blood pressure
Action Strategy: Just do it. Start small but make sure you start. Add a small activity, depending on your level of physical fitness. This could be as simple as walking up and down a hallway a few times or as challenging as a 5-mile hike with friends. Aim to fit 150 minutes of physical movement that gets your heart beating faster into each week.
How To Use Your Mind To Prevent Alzheimers Disease
Creative thinking is important in solving daily problems. However, the parallel mental processing involved in creative thinking becomes critical for survival later in life. It is critical because the aging brain loses mental connections as many brain cells die.
Studies suggest that brains of people, who normally use multiple approaches to solving problems, develop multiple mental paths such that even as some of these paths disappear due to cell death, other paths remain. Such individuals are less likely to develop Alzheimers disease compared to individuals who always handle their problems in similar ways.
It follows that in order to keep your memory and brain in good form for longer you need to follow a lifestyle that includes creative thinking and decision making. Some activities have been identified as being beneficial in the prevention of Alzheimers disease. And knowing how debilitating AD can be, it is important to know what you can do to reduce your chances of getting it.
Activities that involve creative thinking include:
- Ballroom dancing
- Small detail crafts such as needlework, knitting and sewing
- Cooking classes and practice
- Learning a new skill
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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.
Let Your Brain Breathe
The Alzheimers Association has found strong links between smoking and dementia. Smoking causes damage to your heart and blood vessels. Cigarette smoke can also cause swelling in your brain that is linked to dementia.
Action Strategy: Smoking can be a lifelong habit, which makes it very difficult to quit. There are many programs that can be helpful. Consider talking to your doctor or browsing the Smoke Free website. You might be surprised at the apps, programs and support available.
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Can Alzheimer’s Disease Be Prevented
At this time, there is no known way to prevent Alzheimer’s disease. But there are things that may make it less likely.
Adults who are physically active may be less likely than adults who aren’t physically active to get Alzheimer’s disease or another type of dementia. Moderate activity is safe for most people, but it’s always a good idea to talk to your doctor before starting an exercise program.
Older adults who stay mentally active may be at lower risk for Alzheimer’s disease. Reading, playing cards and other games, working crossword puzzles, and even watching television or listening to the radio may help them avoid symptoms of the disease. So can going out and remaining as socially active as possible. Although this “use it or lose it” approach hasn’t been proved, no harm can come from regularly putting the brain to work.
Some studies have tried to find a link between the Mediterranean-style diet and a lower risk of Alzheimer’s disease. More research is needed.
Support For Family And Friends
Currently, many people living with Alzheimers disease are cared for at home by family members. Caregiving can have positive aspects for the caregiver as well as the person being cared for. It may bring personal fulfillment to the caregiver, such as satisfaction from helping a family member or friend, and lead to the development of new skills and improved family relationships.
Although most people willingly provide care to their loved ones and friends, caring for a person with Alzheimers disease at home can be a difficult task and may become overwhelming at times. Each day brings new challenges as the caregiver copes with changing levels of ability and new patterns of behavior. As the disease gets worse, people living with Alzheimers disease often need more intensive care.
You can find more information about caring for yourself and access a helpful care planning form.
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What Is Known About Alzheimers Disease
Scientists do not yet fully understand what causes Alzheimers disease. There likely is not a single cause but rather several factors that can affect each person differently.
- Age is the best known risk factor for Alzheimers disease.
- Family historyresearchers believe that genetics may play a role in developing Alzheimers disease. However, genes do not equal destiny. A healthy lifestyle may help reduce your risk of developing Alzheimers disease. Two large, long term studies indicate that adequate physical activity, a nutritious diet, limited alcohol consumption, and not smoking may help people. To learn more about the study, you can listen to a short podcast.
- Changes in the brain can begin years before the first symptoms appear.
- Researchers are studying whether education, diet, and environment play a role in developing Alzheimers disease.
- There is growing scientific evidence that healthy behaviors, which have been shown to prevent cancer, diabetes, and heart disease, may also reduce risk for subjective cognitive decline. Heres 8 ways.
How Does Dancing Prevent Alzheimers Disease
Tests conducted during the study indicate that while music has a stimulating effect on the brains reward centers, dancing stimulates sensory and motion centers of the brain.
Studies have also identified regions of the brain which are involved in the learning and performance of dance. These include the following:
- Motor cortex which is responsible for planning, execution and control of voluntary movement
- Somatosensory cortex whose responsibility includes motor control and coordination of eyes and hands
- Basal ganglia which works together with other parts of the brain to coordinate movement
- Cerebellum which integrates brain and spinal cord inputs to create and actualize detailed, complex movements
In addition, the combination of mental and physical activities has many benefits including improved memory and stronger neuronal-connections.
The studies also found that dancers benefit more if they interchange the lead and following roles. Dancing also helps the dancers in their cooperation in other areas of their lives.
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Limit Your Brains Exposure To Alcohol
The American Addiction Centers reports that drinking alcohol can increase dementia risk. A study found that people who drink 5 or more bottles of beer in one sitting were 3 times more likely to have dementia by age 65.
Action Strategy: Binge drinking is hard on your brain. Drinking large amounts of alcohol can stop your neurons from re-growing. If you choose to drink, limit yourself to one glass of wine or other favorite drink. If you are concerned about your own drinking or a loved ones, seek professional help.
Can Cognitive Training Prevent Alzheimer’s Disease
Cognitive training involves structured activities designed to enhance memory, reasoning, and speed of processing. There is encouraging but inconclusive evidence that a specific, computer-based cognitive training may help delay or slow age-related cognitive decline. However, there is no evidence that it can prevent or delay Alzheimer’s-related cognitive impairment.
Studies show that cognitive training can improve the type of cognition a person is trained in. For example, older adults who received 10 hours of practice designed to enhance their speed and accuracy in responding to pictures presented briefly on a computer screen got faster and better at this specific task and other tasks in which enhanced speed of processing is important. Similarly, older adults who received several hours of instruction on effective memory strategies showed improved memory when using those strategies. The important question is whether such training has long-term benefits or translates into improved performance on daily activities like driving and remembering to take medicine.
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What Causes Alzheimers Disease
Several processes occur in Alzheimers disease, including amyloid plaque deposits, neurofibrillary tangles and neuronal death.
- Amyloid plaques are deposits outside the brain cells they prevent the brain from passing signals properly.
- Neurofibrillary tangles are deposits inside the brain cells they kill the cells by blocking off food and energy, causing dementia that worsens over time.
- Neuronal death causes shrinking in the outer layer of the brain which is vital to memory, language and judgement Alzheimers disease is characterised by this shrinkage.
In most cases, scientists are still unsure of what triggers the formation of plaques, tangles and other chemical changes associated with sporadic Alzheimer’s disease. Suspected causes include environmental factors, chemical imbalances or the bodys own immune system.
Alzheimers disease tends to target the outer part of the brain first, which is associated with learning and short-term memory. As the disease progresses deeper into the brain, other functions are affected and symptoms get worse.
For people with familial Alzheimers disease, mutations in 3 genes have been found to increase the production of amyloid plaques that damage the brain. There are other ‘risk-factor genes’ that may increase a person’s chance of getting Alzheimers disease earlier in life.
What Is The Burden Of Alzheimers Disease In The United States
- Alzheimers disease is one of the top 10 leading causes of death in the United States.2
- The 6th leading cause of death among US adults.
- The 5th leading cause of death among adults aged 65 years or older.3
In 2020, an estimated 5.8 million Americans aged 65 years or older had Alzheimers disease.1 This number is projected to nearly triple to 14 million people by 2060.1
In 2010, the costs of treating Alzheimers disease were projected to fall between $159 and $215 billion.4 By 2040, these costs are projected to jump to between $379 and more than $500 billion annually.4
Death rates for Alzheimers disease are increasing, unlike heart disease and cancer death rates that are on the decline.5 Dementia, including Alzheimers disease, has been shown to be under-reported in death certificates and therefore the proportion of older people who die from Alzheimers may be considerably higher.6
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What Is Alzheimers Disease
Alzheimers typically affects seniors and is the most common form of dementia in the United States. Symptoms usually first surface in the sixties. Early-onset Alzheimers affects under 5 percent of those with the disease, with symptoms showing up anywhere from age 30 to 60. While genetics do a play part in bringing on Alzheimers in some people, other factors could play a part as well. Like the impact of other health problems including cardiovascular problems, and metabolic issues like obesity and diabetes. Diet, physical activity, mental stimulation, and social engagement may also influence the risk of developing the problem.3
Mental Workouts And Social Activity
Staying mentally and socially active could also help. The National Health Services, UK, suggests taking up activities like reading, writing, enrolling in adult education programs, playing a musical instrument, learning a foreign language, or taking up a sport that also involves social engagement like bowling or golf.14 Doing puzzles or a crossword or Sudoku can be a good way to spend your mornings and are a great workout for the mind. The Alzheimers Research and Prevention Foundation suggest doing mental exercises they call Brain Aerobics thrice a week for at least 20 minutes at a time.15
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How Much Ballroom Dancing Prevents Alzheimers
The study found that seniors who took part in regular dancing developed more resistance to dementia. The study made another interesting finding: seniors who changed partners more often had higher resistance to Alzheimers than those who didnt change partners. This is probably because they had to learn to adjust to the new styles of their new partners.
Similar results were found for doing crossword puzzles. The study found that doing crossword puzzles at least four times a week reduces the risk of dementia.