Steps to Take NOW to Prevent Alzheimer’s Disease in the Future
Our memory is precious beyond words. We may take it for granted now, but if it were to be taken from us, normal living and independence would become very hard or impossible. Yet, according to leading experts in the field, dementia affects roughly 55,000 people in Ireland (1 in 3 aged over 65), with that number predicted to double in the next 20 years.
Dementia is the umbrella term used to describe lots of different neural conditions. Alzheimer’s is the most common form of dementia, while other dementias include vascular dementia, dementia with Lewy bodies, and frontotemporal dementia. Alzheimer’s is a serious and increasingly common disease of the brain in which somebody who was previously ‘normal’ suffers a progressive loss of cognition and memory. Some memory loss is seen as a natural part of growing older. But Alzheimer’s is in no way a ‘normal’ part of ageing and is far from inevitable. It is a disease, like many others, that has causes and the potential of prevention.
Possible Causes of Alzheimer’s Disease
The truth is that we don’t yet know the exact cause. Experts agree that in the vast majority of cases, Alzheimer’s, like other common chronic conditions, probably develops as a result of complex interactions among multiple factors. Although some risk factors — such as age or genes — cannot be changed, other risk factors — such as high blood pressure and lack of exercise — usually can be changed to help reduce risk. Also, very recent research suggests that one of the causes could be gum disease.
What we do know is that it affects more women than men and is linked to particular changes in the structure of the brain, with abnormal ‘tangles’ of nerve cell proteins known as ‘amyloid plaques’. There is a lot of inflammation in and around these tangles and it is thought that the inflammation may play an important part in killing nerve cells and thus damaging the surrounding brain structure. Some of the current research is aimed at finding ways of reducing this inflammation.
There is also a family predisposition in some cases of Alzheimer’s, linked to a gene that plays a role in handling fats – known as the APOE gene. However, this gene is not always found and, even if it is, it doesn’t mean that the gene is the only causative factor. Indeed, even in the presence o the gene, there is evidence that other factors, including diet, play an important role.
It’s important to note that there are other explanations for memory loss and confusion apart from dementia. These can include anxiety and stress, depression, infection, thyroid disorders, vitamin deficiency, side-effects of medications and conditions such as mild cognitive impairment or a stroke. If you are concerned for yourself or a loved one, it is a good idea to talk to your GP as soon as possible as early detection is important.
10 Steps to Prevent Alzheimer’s Disease
Can Alzheimer’s be prevented? It’s a question that continues to intrigue researchers and fuel new investigations. There are no clear-cut answers yet — partially due to the need for more large-scale studies in diverse populations — but promising research is underway. Studies have repeatedly shown that fish consumption (particularly omega-3s) is associated with a reduced risk of Alzheimer’s. Increasingly, researchers have evidence to support the theory that a healthy lifestyle makes the difference.
(1) increasing your physical activity,
(2) eating healthily (including cutting down on sugar and processed foods, while increasing consumption of nuts, seeds, vegetables and fibre,
(3) not smoking,
(4) drinking in moderation (if at all),
(5) reducing stress,
(6) getting good quality sleep,
(7) reducing blood pressure,
(8) staying mentally active,
(9) staying socially engaged and
(10) taking care of your gums, or regularly attending a dental hygienist,
then you are significantly more likely to ward off the condition.
For instance, when it comes to exercise alone, it is believed that regular physical exercise can reduce your risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease by up to 50 per cent.
Following the above recommendations may also help slow down the progression of the disease should you develop it. This advice mirrors the advice we give our clients at Motivation looking to achieve a healthier weight. Leading a healthy lifestyle covers all these factors and, with expert coaching, we are all capable of implementing them into our life. Find out more about our weight loss coaching here.
New Treatment for Alzheimer’s Disease
Exciting new research findings recently highlighted drug trials which appear to have successfully cleared the sticky plaques from the brain which cause dementia and halt mental decline. The researchers also found that, after six months of the treatment, patients stopped deteriorating compared with those taking a placebo, suggesting that their dementia had been halted. If shown to be effective in larger trials, it could mean the first drug to modify the progression of dementia could be available in just a few years. Although it is early days, scientists are very hopeful and excited by this.
For more information, contact the Alzheimer Society of Ireland.
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