What Is The #1 Cause
Dr. Marrottoli explains that while we know what’s happening in the brain, It still isn’t understood why. “Consequently, there’s no single cause, at least that we’re aware of yet,” he says. Age is the best known risk factor, but everyone grows older. Other than that, family history is the most influential factor. “Having a first-degree relative with Alzheimer’s disease increases the risk of developing it by 10 to 30 percent,” the CDC explains. However, they also point out that genes do not equal destiny.
What Should People Know About Dementia
Jennifer Prescott, RN, MSN, CDP and founder of Blue Water Homecare and Hospice shares, “Dementia is a common term that describes a group of symptoms that affect memory, decision making and reasoning. The most common form of dementia is Alzheimer’s Disease which according to the 2022 Alzheimer’s Association Facts and Figures Report an estimated 6.5 million Americans 65 and older have Alzheimer’s dementia. Although there is currently no cure for Alzheimer’s Disease, early diagnosis and treatment are important as there are medications that may improve quality of life and slow symptom progression in some cases. Once diagnosed, families may work together with healthcare providers to develop a care plan and map of how they want to live the rest of their life safely and with their wishes in mind.”
Other Ways To Take Care Of Your Health
Get a good nights sleep
Sleep is important for your mental wellbeing and it may reduce your risk of dementia. A good nights sleep for many people is around seven to eight hours.
Obstructive sleep apnoea is a sleep disorder that may particularly increase a persons risk of getting dementia. This is because it reduces the amount of oxygen that gets to the brain. People who have sleep apnoea stop breathing during their sleep and then wake up with a start.
If you have any problems sleeping well, particularly sleep apnoea, speak to your GP about getting support.
Protect your hearing and get it tested
Hearing loss may increase your risk of getting dementia. However the reasons for this are still unclear.
Many people start to lose their hearing as they get older, though they may not notice it at first.
To avoid hearing loss increasing your risk of getting dementia, its important to get your hearing tested. You may be able to book a free hearing test at your local optician or speak to your GP about being referred to an audiologist . This will show up any hearing issues and provide ways of managing them, such as using a hearing aid.
Often, managing hearing loss works best when you start doing it early on. This means protecting your hearing from a young age. For example, you can avoid listening to loud noises for long periods, and wear ear protection when necessary.
Protect your head
Serious TBIs in younger people are mostly caused by:
- road traffic accidents
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Who Has Alzheimers Disease
- In 2020, as many as 5.8 million Americans were living with Alzheimers disease.1
- Younger people may get Alzheimers disease, but it is less common.
- The number of people living with the disease doubles every 5 years beyond age 65.
- This number is projected to nearly triple to 14 million people by 2060.1
- Symptoms of the disease can first appear after age 60, and the risk increases with age.
More Useful Links And Resources
Risk factors.Alzheimer Society of Canada, 2021. Read about risk factors for dementia in our downloadable, print-friendly infosheet. This sheet also contains strategies and lifestyle changes that can help you reduce your risk of developing dementia.
Understanding genetics and Alzheimer’s disease.Alzheimer Society of Canada, 2018.In our downloadable, print-friendly infosheet, learn more about the role that genetics plays as a risk factor for dementia, and find out whether you should pursue genetic testing.
Risk factors and prevention. Alzheimer’s Society UK. This comprehensive webpage from the Alzheimer’s Society UK has some helpful nuggets of research and advice related to reducing your risk of dementia.
Tobacco use and dementia. World Health Organization , 2014. This report from the WHO details the evidence behind smoking tobacco as a risk factor for dementia.
Women and Dementia: Understanding sex/gender differences in the brain. brainXchange, 2018. This webinar discusses understandings of sex and gender, sex differences in Alzheimerâs disease, how the higher number of women with Alzheimer’s may be due to both, and a discussion of the role of estrogen in the health of brain regions associated with Alzheimerâs disease. In partnership with the Alzheimer Society of Canada and the Canadian Consortium of Neurodegeneration in Aging .
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How Do I Know I Have It
Symptoms of Alzheimer’s generally appear after 60. Oftentimes, you may not know you have it, but others around you likely do, says Dr. Marrottoli. “Unfortunately, many people with Alzheimer’s disease have little or no insight into their deficits and that may put them at risk with safety issues. That’s why it’s important to involve family and friends in the process, both for diagnosis and management.” Memory problems are the primary symptom, but there are others, according to the CDC:
Memory loss that disrupts daily life, such as getting lost in a familiar place or repeating questions.
Trouble handling money and paying bills.
Difficulty completing familiar tasks at home, at work or at leisure.
Misplacing things and being unable to retrace steps to find them.
Changes in mood, personality, or behavior.
Aluminum In The Environment
Aluminum has a non-metallic form that makes up eight per cent of the earth’s surface. In small amounts, aluminum is referred to as “trace elements”, and occur naturally in the foods we eat, in our drinking water and are even added to the water treatment process in some municipalities.
Trace elements of aluminum may also be found in:
- Many processed foods
- Cosmetics and personal hygiene products, such as deodorants and nasal sprays
- Some drugs in order to make them more effective or less irritating
- The air we breathe from dry soil, cigarette smoke, pesticide sprays and aluminum-based paint.
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Identifying Risk Factors For Alzheimer Disease: Are They Modifiable
Alzheimer disease is the most common cause of dementia and represents the most frequently diagnosed neurodegenerative disease.1 In the United States, approximately 6.5 million people aged 65 years and older live with AD, and that number may rise to a projected 12.7 million by 2050.2
Nonmodifiable and Potentially Modifiable Risk Factors for AD
Pathologically, AD is defined by the presence of amyloid plaques, in addition to neurofibrillary tangles, as a result of the accumulation of amyloid beta peptide in the medial temporal lobe and neocortical structures.3 A genetic polymorphism in the APOE gene which encodes for apolipoprotein E, the 4 allele, is an unmodifiable risk factor for sporadic AD, or AD that affects people without a family history of the condition.3
Despite the strong genetic component, further investigation into AD has revealed certain modifiable risk factors for the condition. For instance, medical factors such as obesity and type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, diet, and air pollution have been linked to AD, given that these factors may increase oxidative stress and inflammation.3
Some estimates suggest that 1 in 3 cases of AD and related dementia are associated with modifiable risk factors. In addition to obesity and diabetes, other potentially modifiable risk factors for AD and related dementia include physical inactivity, low educational attainment, depression, social isolation, and smoking.4,5
Lifestyle Factors That Impact AD Risk
Who Is At Risk For Dementia
Prescott says, “Some lifestyle choices may raise your risk of developing dementia/Alzheimer’s Disease. More studies continue to be done to see a direct correlation of habits and Alzheimer’s Disease prevalence.
These risk factors/habits may include:
Family history of Alzheimer’s Disease or dementia
Race/ethnicity- The CDC reports that older African Americans are twice as likely to have dementia than Caucasians. Hispanics are 1.5 times more likely to have dementia than Caucasians.
Inactivity or lack of exercise
Lack of brain stimulation
High blood pressure- high blood pressure may increase risk of some types of dementia. More research needs to be done to see if lowering blood pressure lowers the risk of dementia.
High cholesterol- may increase risk of dementia if untreated
Traumatic brain injury”
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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.
The Lifestyle Choices That Affect Alzheimer’s Risk
There are no guarantees when it comes to aging, but a new study helps clarify the lifestyle choices that affect our risk for Alzheimers disease, for better and for worse. The team from the University of California, San Francisco culled thousands of previous studies on Alzheimers risk and protective factors, and arrived at 323 studies that provided high-quality data. They found, as other studies have, that there are some key elements that are largely within our power to integrate or avoid, in order to reduce the risk of the brain disease that affects some 5 million people in the U.S. today.
The factors that appear to be protective against Alzheimer’s include many of the things that we already know to be good for us: Eating a healthy diet healthy intake of folate, vitamin C, and vitamin E coffee consumption fish consumption light-moderate drinking and staying cognitively active. There were also some links between medications and reduced Alzheimer’s risk, including estrogen, cholesterol lowering drugs , blood pressure meds, and anti-inflammatory drugs .
The nine factors associated with higher risk of developing Alzheimer’s were:
- Carotid artery narrowing
- Low educational attainment
- High levels of homocysteine
- High blood pressure and low blood pressure
- Current smoking
- Type 2 diabetes
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What To Do If You Experience Symptoms
If you experience any Alzheimer’s disease symptoms, you should see your healthcare provider. “Notify your primary clinician for an initial evaluation to determine the extent of the problem and to check for possible contributing factors. In some circumstances, referral to a more specialized dementia center may be warranted,” says Dr. Marrottolia. Detecting the disease as early as possible can be helpful in planning for the future and creating an effective treatment plan. And to get through this pandemic at your healthiest, don’t miss these35 Places You’re Most Likely to Catch COVID.
What Factors Might Affect Dementia Risk
Genes which are not considered modifiable and lifestyle factors like physical activity and diet which are considered modifiable play potential roles in different forms of dementia.
A recent study in JAMA attempts to estimate how much genetic and lifestyle factors influence risk for dementia by querying individuals who pledged to be part of a UK-based biobank. Biobanks link large collections of biological information, such as genetics, with health and disease status gleaned from medical records. Using data in large biobanks, scientists can look at how the environment which includes lifestyle choices and genetics work together to increase risk for disease.
In the JAMA study, researchers tapped hospital records and death registries to collect diagnoses in 200,000 white British individuals age 60 or older.
Risk Factors That Cannot Be Controlled
- age the incidence of Alzheimers disease increases with age, with one in 30 Australians aged 70 to 74 years estimated to have dementia, increasing to one in eight aged 80 to 84 years and one in three of those aged 90 to 94 years
- genetics the genetics of dementia is not fully understood, but there are inherited genes in some forms of dementia, including familial Alzheimers disease, Down syndrome and familial frontotemporal dementia.
Summary Of Alzheimers Causes
How do we make sense of all these different theories? One approach is to view AD as a final common pathway reached by many different routes. AD may be a type of brain destruction that can eventually occur with aging but may be accelerated by:
- diminished blood flow,
- excess accumulation of abnormal brain proteins,
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If You Live In England
Your GP may invite you to an NHS Health Check, or you can book an appointment by contacting them.
This NHS Health Check is available to anyone aged 4074 who lives in England and does not already have diabetes, heart, kidney or circulation problems. It is designed to find any early signs of these conditions and stop them getting worse. Ideally, you should have this check-up every five years.
After your health check, you can discuss any concerns with a healthcare professional and get advice on looking after your health, including reducing your risk of dementia.
If you already have any of these conditions, its still important to have regular health check-ups. However you dont need to book an NHS Health Check specifically.
Family History & Genetics
The role of genes in Alzheimers disease is complex and still being investigated.
The risk of developing Alzheimers disease is higher if your parents or siblings have had it however, having a family history of the condition doesnt guarantee that youll have it too. If several people in your family have had Alzheimers, particularly at a younger age, you should consider genetic counseling to evaluate your chances of developing it.
There are two types of Alzheimers disease both types have genetic risk factors associated with them:
- Early-onset Alzheimers disease: This is a rare form of the condition, where symptoms can appear at any time after the age of 30. Inheriting a genetic mutation in one of three genes can lead to early-onset Alzheimers disease.
- Late-onset Alzheimers disease: This is the more common form of the condition, where symptoms first appear in the mid-60s. People with a gene variant known as APOE 4 on chromosome 19 may be more likely to develop late-onset Alzheimers disease. However, having the variation doesnt mean youll definitely develop Alzheimer’s, and some people with Alzheimers dont have APOE 4.
Having Down syndrome, a genetic chromosome disorder, can also raise your risk of developing Alzheimers disease. This is because people with Down syndrome have an extra copy of chromosome 21, so they have an additional gene producing the protein that leads to the production of beta-amyloid.
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Is It Something I Ate
What about nutrition? We have seen recent reports linking prolonged cognitive health with adherence to a brain-healthy diets, such as the so-called Mediterranean-style diets, which emphasize fresh fruits and vegetables, nuts, healthy fats rather than saturated ones, and fiber.2 The connection between diets high in saturated fats and the development of vascular disease suggests one explanation for nutrition’s influence on the development of AD. Lack of specific nutrients such as vitamin B12 or more global malnutrition are seen in people with AD, but it’s not clear whether poor diet is an effect rather than cause of cognitive decline.
Look After Your Heart
Research shows that people who have high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, or are obese, particularly around middle age, have a greater risk of developing dementia later in life. Leaving these conditions untreated can lead to damaged blood vessels in the brain, which in turn damages brain cells and leads to impaired thinking functions.
Although there are no guarantees that keeping your heart healthy will prevent dementia, you will give yourself the best chance of avoiding or delaying dementia.
Promisingly, studies have shown that the treatment of high blood pressure reduces that risk. Other studies indicate that treating high cholesterol and diabetes may also reduce the risk of developing dementia, although more research is needed in this area.
It is recommended you have regular check-ups to assess your:
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Are There Dna Tests To Determine Risk For Alzheimers Disease
The role DNA plays in Alzheimers disease risk is complicated, and you should discuss your decision to take a test, as well as the results, with a health care provider. At UW Health, genetic testing is available only to patients with a first-degree relative with early-onset Alzheimers disease . These tests look for rare genetic mutations associated with risk for early-onset Alzheimers disease. Researchers have found associations between genetic variants of the apolipoprotein E gene and risk for later-onset Alzheimers disease . APOE comes in several different forms, or alleles. Each person inherits two APOE alleles, one from each biological parent. APOE genetic tests are available through private companies that offer direct-to-consumer testing. Please be aware that when you seek testing through a private company, you are sharing your genetic information with a business. Review carefully the terms and conditions regarding what these companies can do with your genetic information. An APOE genetic test will not tell you if you will get dementia. In fact, only 40% of people who develop Alzheimers disease carry the APOE allele associated with increased risk for the disease. The Dementia Matters podcast episode DNA Is Not Your Destiny: Genetics and Alzheimers Disease Risk offers insight into the genetic and environmental factors that play a role in Alzheimers disease risk. You can listen to the episode or read the transcript of the interview on our website.
Vascular & Neurological Health
Researchers are very interested in the connections between vascular health and the likelihood of developing Alzheimers disease.
There appears to be a link between cardiovascular problems such as high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, and metabolic conditions like obesity and diabetes. Continuing research into this relationship helps us understand possible ways of reducing the risk of Alzheimers disease as we age.
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