How to protect yourself from Alzheimer’s disease and Dementia

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The World Health Organization reports that over 82 million people around the world will most likely suffer dementia by 2030, and in the US, about 14 million people will fall ill with Alzheimer’s disease by 2050.

Alzheimer’s, a leading cause of dementia, causes a slow but incremental decline in thinking skills. It has a direct effect on the sufferer’s mood, memory, language, and brain activities. The patients eventually become dependent on caregivers for their daily existence. In critical cases, Alzheimer’s leads to other medical emergencies such as stroke. In addition, it results in “vascular dementia,” a general health condition for damaged blood vessels.

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The current tally of people diagnosed with dementia around the globe is worrisome but despite huge efforts from medical professionals, this thought-provoking disease (Alzheimer’s) has remained without cure. However, recent research is focusing on how people can cut their risks or chances of getting the disease.

“Nothing is certain at the moment…It’s not yet definitive,” says Kristine Yaffe, the managing director and professor of psychiatry, neurology and epidemiology at the University of California San Francisco.

Yaffe, who also holds position as the director of the Memory Disorders Clinic at the San Francisco Veterans Affairs Medical Center, said her team of researchers has in the past five years made progress on finding modifiable risk factors with strong evidence.

Importantly, Alzheimer’s is age-related and one’s chance of getting it increases with time. Yet, scientists advise that instead of harbouring fears for the ailment or waiting on time, people should examine their choice of lifestyles. So, there is a probability that the odds can be in anyone’s favour if they take cognizance of what they need to do. Good news is: it is not too late to start now for better protection.

Keith Fargo (PhD), director of scientific programs and outreach at the Alzheimer’s Association said, “Research from the past 2 to 3 years suggests that risk factors need to be focused on in midlife.”

High blood pressure is one of the risk factors in Alzheimer’s.

A 24-year research conducted with 16,000 adult participants aged between 44 to 66 proved that people with HBP in midlife have about 40% higher risk of dementia. Also, a 2014 review previously published in medical journals estimated that Alzheimer’s disease, which manifests in over 425,000 Americans each year, has links to high blood pressure.

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Advising on the necessary precautions against the untreatable disease, Neurologist Douglas Scharre,  a director of the division of cognitive neurology at Ohio State’s Wexner Medical Center, said you should concentrate on achieving good health no matter your age.

“If you have any dementia risk factor identified at any age,” Scharre explained, “that is when you should be addressing or trying to control it.”

Apart from the revelation on a healthy blood pressure, other heart-related challenges such as cholesterol and diabetes are red flags in Alzheimer’s. A proper and timely check may decrease your chances of falling victim dementia or its causal factor.

Type 2 diabetes can harm the brain by stirring up changes which, in turn, could have negative effects on one’s memory and obstruct a smooth functioning of other brain activities. It is also a proven fact that cholesterol aids build-up of proteins in the brain, a situation which increases the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.

“Managing your blood pressure, your cholesterol and, if you have it, your diabetes, will likely lower your risk of dementia later in life,” notes Jagan Pillai (PhD), a neurologist and MD at the Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health.

What you should know about Alzheimer’s disease and dementia

According to recent research, taking care of your brain health include the following activities:

  • Getting a good sleep and totally avoiding a sedentary life will help the body cut down on toxins build-up thus decreasing chances of dementia. A good sleep helps the brain flush out beta-amyloid, a protein that has links to Alzheimer’s disease. Yaffe adds, “We don’t know exactly what explains the link between sleep and dementia, but it does seem that there is something about sleep and the clearing of beta-amyloid.”
  • Others are protecting your head from injury, using hearing aids when necessary, embracing good company and going for early tests when in doubt.

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