How to lower your riskof Alzheimer’s disease
The Daily Star
In 1901, when Dr.
He decided to place her on an isolation room but she would later start showing clear symptoms of dementia: loss of memory, delusions, sleeping problems and she would even scream for hours in the middle of the night. He called her disease the “disease of forgetfulness.”
Alzheimer’s is a progressive, degenerative disorder in which the cells in the brain become damaged, causing the symptoms described above.
When he examined her brain, he found in it senile plaques and tangles that are the hallmark of Alzheimer’s disease, as we know it today. Later in 1906 he described these findings to the
Alzheimer’s disease has no cure. However, certain measures related mainly to lifestyle can delay the onset of the disease in many patients. Delaying by a few years the onset of symptoms can greatly reduce the number of people suffering from this disease. Alzheimer’s disease appears generally in people over 65. However, there is a variety called early onset dementia (the one suffered by Deter) that can occur in people between 30 and 65.
Alzheimer’s, together with diabetes, heart disease and arthritis, are complex diseases that can be caused by a variety of genetic, environmental and lifestyle factors. Although we cannot control all of them, we can control some risk factors for the disease. Age and genetic makeup cannot be changed. However, there are other risk factors – mainly associated with our lifestyle – for Alzheimer’s that we can influence.
Among the actions we can take is to keep our cholesterol, blood sugar level and blood pressure under control, since it has been shown that when they are not between normal levels it increases the risk of Alzheimer’s. Although these strategies have proven helpful for many people, they will not necessarily stave off Alzheimer’s, since they depend on each person’s individual genetic makeup and lifestyle.
A growing body of research has proved that changing long-standing lifestyle habits can significantly reduce the risks of developing Alzheimer’s. Swedish and Finnish researchers studied more than a 1,000 people aged between 60 and 77, and found that those who made certain lifestyle changes were able to have their dementia diagnosis postponed by two years and reduce the prevalence of the disease by 25 percent.
One of the most important strategies is to get physically and mentally active. Several studies have shown that physical activity is one of the most effective measures for Alzheimer’s protection. Also important are all the actions tending to exercise our brains. Learning new activities, languages, reading, doing puzzles are useful ways to stimulate our brain.
In a study with older adults, those who received as few as 10 sessions of mental stimulation significantly improved their cognitive functioning in daily activities and the effects lasted even 10 years later. Closely associated with this activity is maintaining an active social life and network of friends. Several studies have shown that the more socially connected we are, the better our memory and our cognition skills.
Among the basic strategies to combat Alzheimer is also having a healthy diet with plenty of vegetables, beans, whole grains, fish and olive oil, all elements present in the Mediterranean diet. In addition, we should eliminate smoking, drink moderate amounts of alcohol and, when possible, eat food without preservatives, dyes, antibiotics and hormones. We should also try to have a regular sleep schedule and eliminate stress in our lives. These measures will not necessarily prevent Alzheimer’s, but will go a long way to delaying its pernicious effects.