Alzheimer's disease is a type of dementia that affects people as they age. As research continues and medical advancements take place, health care professionals know more now than ever about the disease. However, if you could find out whether or not you were likely to suffer from the condition later in life, would you?
Causes and risks
As the human brain ages, cells begin to die off. This leads to dementia, which Alzheimer's accounts for 60 percent to 80 percent of.1 When cells are dying, plaque begins to build up in the brain. This creates a protein known as beta-amyloid, which may either be a symptom or cause of the disease – scientists are still working to better decipher it.
Although there are some things that individuals can do to decrease their risk for developing Alzheimer's some of the causing factors are unavoidable. For instance, as we age the disorder becomes more likely and common. Other triggers we cannot prevent include:
- family history of the disease
- presence of the gene apolipoprotein E
Females are also more likely to develop the disease than males. As for avoidable factors, one that is specific to women is the use of estrogen hormone replacement therapy. Other modifiable triggers are:
- onset of diabetes, high cholesterol and high blood pressure
- issues of sleep apnea or other sleep disorders
Although no risks are a direct link to Alzheimer's, they do increase an individual's chances. There are some specific warning signs that should be looked out for, so that treatment can begin immediately upon diagnosis.
According to the National Institutes of Health, the top warning signs that someone is suffering from Alzheimer's are:2
- An inability to balance a checkbook or pay bills
- Forgetting how to do everyday activities like cooking
- Repeatedly asking the same question again
- Getting lost in familiar settings
- Retelling the same story using the same vocabulary
- Misplacing common objects without finding them later
- Not recognizing poor hygiene habits
- Looking to others when it comes time to making decisions
However, currently medicine is currently unable to diagnose Alzheimer's without an autopsy. This is because we are only able to tell once abnormal growths have been throughout most areas of the brain.
Promote brain health
Although it's not always possible to prevent Alzheimer's by promoting brain health, it can't hurt. There are plenty of things people can do as they age to help reduce their risk for developing the disease.
- Regular exercise is great for physical health, but it can also help improve brain function. Moderate exercise is a great way to increase memory and elderly individuals can do simply things such as walking three times weekly.
- Just like physical activity, maintaining a healthy diet is always wise. Some foods that are best for brain health? Vegetables, fruits, legumes and whole grains are just a few items suggested by CNN Health.3
- That's easy enough, but upping daily intake of B12 and folic acid may lower homocysteine, an amino acid that has been found to double the risk of Alzheimer's disease.
- Seniors may also want to look into taking formal education classes. This is a great way to keep the brain functioning at a high level, and it helps to increase the amount of socialization that retirees partake in on a regular basis.
- Keeping socially active is important for mental stimulation, and it has been seen to lower stress. This can be as simple as getting together with a group of friends or family for a game of cards on a weekly basis.
These tips can help maintain healthy blood flow throughout vessels in the brain, which may, as a result, prevent Alzheimer's disease.
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1 Medical News Today, "What is Alzheimer's disease? Causes, symptoms and treatment" November 1, 2013
2 National Institutes of Health, "7 warning signs of Alzheimer's" Fall 2010
3 CNN Health, "Alzheimer's risk before symptoms: Do you want to know?" November 9, 2013