Lifestyle Changes Reduce Alzheimer’s Risk
Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia, and among the top illnesses, older adults fear the most. In fact, when seniors have a momentary lapse in memory, they wonder whether they are developing Alzheimer’s. While forgetfulness can be a normal part of aging, it does not mean that older adults are developing Alzheimer’s disease.
According to the Alzheimer’s Association, 1 in 10 individuals over 65 develop Alzheimer’s disease, and the illness contributes to 60 to 80 percent of all dementia cases.
The progressive brain disorder affects an individual’s memory, speech, thought, and ability to make decisions. In severe cases, individuals with Alzheimer’s disease are not able to care for themselves.
While there is no cure for Alzheimer’s, medical professionals say that making lifestyle changes and learning more about the disease can go a long way in delaying the onset of Alzheimer’s or preventing the illness from developing.
A growing amount of evidence-based research shows how making lifestyle changes may contribute to reducing the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. Most of the suggested changes involve keeping the mind and body active.
Some of the activities include:
- Arts and crafts
- Enrolling in a class or online course
- Physical exercise (at least three times a week for 30 to 40 minutes)
- Playing games (for example, board games, completing jigsaw puzzles)
- Participating in a sports team
- Taking music lessons
- Walking (at least 30 minutes a day)
- Writing (a good exercise for the brain)
Older adults can also benefit from a healthy, balanced diet with a variety of foods, such as fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.
Eating a nutritious diet and challenging the mind may have short and long-term benefits for the brain and may prevent Alzheimer’s from developing.
Risk Factors for Developing Alzheimer’s
Alzheimer’s disease is usually detected through various memory tests, brain scans, standard medical tests, and noticing a change in a person’s personality and behavior. Now, a study in the journal Ophthalmology Retina shows that a simple eye test using a non-invasive technique can detect Alzheimer’s disease.
Researchers at the Duke Eye Center in Durham, NC discovered that changes in the retina’s blood vessel density could reflect changes going on in the brain. The study showed that blood vessels in the back of the eye were dense in people who did not have Alzheimer’s but the blood vessels were less dense in people who had Alzheimer’s.
Besides changes in the retina, there are other factors that can place adults at risk for developing Alzheimer’s, such as:
- Age. While age does not directly cause Alzheimer’s, age-related changes in the brain contribute to the development of dementia.
- Family history. Alzheimer’s disease sometimes runs in families, either genetically or environmentally, or both.
- Gender. More women are affected by dementia because they tend to live longer than men.
- Down syndrome. Researchers believe the extra chromosome that causes Down syndrome also increases the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
- Mild cognitive impairment. People with a slight decline in memory and thinking skills can remain stable or progress to Alzheimer’s disease or dementia.
- Traumatic brain injury. Studies show severe brain injuries and concussions may increase the risk of dementia.
- Sleep deprivation. Dementia is often associated with insomnia and sleep interruptions which can affect brain health.
- Chronic health conditions. Heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and other chronic health conditions can increase the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
While certain risk factors may contribute to the development of Alzheimer’s, studies show that there is no guarantee that people with these risk factors will develop Alzheimer’s or any other form of dementia.
For more information, about Alzheimer’s disease, visit the Alzheimer’s Association at www. alz.org.