With populations living longer than ever before, there is a greater concern amongst those aging as to whether they will develop dementia, such as Alzheimer’s.
The latest research is yielding valuable information on dementia risk factors, with a view to people reducing their risk if they can. Here are some of the risk factors we know so far.
The older you get, the more likely you are to develop dementia. But it is important to note that not all dementia is Alzheimer’s. One in nine people over 65 and one in three people over 85 have Alzheimer’s.
Anyone with a parent, brother or sister with Alzheimer’s is more likely to develop the disease. Scientists are not sure if this is due to genetics, environment, or both. Genetic tests are available for both APOE e4 and the rare genes that directly cause Alzheimer’s. Those with the APOE e4 gene tend to develop dementia at a younger age. Doctors are now seeing dementia and Alzheimer’s in patients in their late 40s and early 50s.
Latinos are 1.5 times more likely and blacks two times more likely to develop dementia as compared with whites. This is believed to be because they often have poorer cardiovascular health and unhealthy eating habits (consuming lots of carbohydrates and fried foods).
Sugar has been called “white death” in relation to what it does to the body and brain. A diet low in carbohydrates seems to be protective.
Aluminum Is NOT a Cause
Aluminum was once blamed for Alzheimer’s, through antacids, soda cans and so on supposedly leeching aluminum into our foods. Fast forward to the present day, and no study has ever confirmed this.
Diabetes is commonly linked with Alzheimer’s. In fact, Alzheimer’s is being called Type 4 diabetes by some. Diabetes poses a significant health challenge in terms of heart health and brain health. Tight glucose control can decrease one’s risk of developing diabetic complications or worsening heart health and dementia.
There is a growing body of evidence that there may be a strong link between serious head injury and future risk of Alzheimer’s, especially when trauma occurs repeatedly or involves a loss of consciousness.
It’s easy to stay safe. Don’t engage in contact sports. Always wear a seatbelt in the car. Check your home to make sure there are no danger spots for slips, trips and falls. Learn more about concussion and traumatic brain injury (TBI) and how to avoid them.
The Heart and Brain Connection
Cardiovascular health is strongly linked to brain health. As we age, we often develop high blood pressure, which has been linked to heart attack and stroke. Narrowing of blood vessels can diminish essential oxygen supplies to certain parts of the brain, causing them to function at less than their best. Eat a heart-healthy diet and exercise regularly.
Exercise has been shown to be protective against dementia. In fact, in people with Alzheimer’s, it has even been shown to reduce symptoms.
It is bad for heart, brain, and the entire body. If you smoke, it’s time to quit.
Alcohol is known to damage brain cells. It also has a great deal of sugar in it, which is harmful to the brain.
You can’t always avoid getting dementia, but being aware of these factors can help reduce the risk.