It is estimated that 10 billion women either have Alzheimer’s or are caring for someone who has it. Women statistically live longer. New research states that one in every six women will develop Alzheimer’s in their lifetime. The risk for men is one in ten, according to the 2008 publication, Alzheimer’s disease: Facts and Figures. This research was funded by several institutions including the National Institute of Aging, The National Institute of Neurological Disorders, and the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. So knowing these sobering figures, what can you do to prevent it? Knowing the risk factors will help you to change diet and lifestyle factors that increase your risk.
Risk Factors for Developing Alzheimer’s:
Heredity -Family history is important to your risk factor. There is one type of Alzheimer’s that is involved with abnormality in the chromosomes. It causes early onset Alzheimer’s in patients as young as 30.
AOPE -e4 Gene: This gene is involved in those over the age of 65. It involves how cholesterol is carried in the bloodstream. The gene is carried down genetically from the parents to the children. If you have one gene you have an increased risk. Those who inherit this gene from both parents have an even higher risk factor. In plain English if you have one parent or both with Alzheimer’s you need to take preventive steps to change any life style factors such as smoking very seriously.
Even with heredity factors, often children do not develop the disease. This shows that either lifestyle or a contributing disease process such as diabetes is responsible for the development of Alzheimer’s even with heredity issues.
Health Risk Factors: The more of these risk factors listed below you have, the greater your risk factor goes up: A person having all of the risk factors below may double or triple their risk for developing Alzheimer’s according to Kaiser Permanente research in Oakland, CA. These same risk factors also present problems for the heart as well. Vascular damage applies to both heart and the brain. These grim numbers were derived from a report published in the journal, Neurology, in 2005. The research study followed 9000 people in Northern California for 27 years. The report included both men and women with equal access to Medical help.
Diabetes: Diabetics have a 65% greater risk for developing Alzheimer’s disease. Diabetes causes vascular problems which affect both the brain and heart. High sugar consumption creates free radicals that damage cells and their function. It causes problems in enzyme production. Enzymes have hundreds of roles in the body including the repair of DNA by free radicals. It causes insulin resistance as well. It has been shown by research that those with Alzheimer’s often have insulin resistance.
High Blood Pressure and Cholesterol: If you just have high cholesterol you are 42% more likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease. If you have high blood pressure alone, you are 24 percent more likely to have the disease.
Thyroid Imbalance: Research reported in the July 28th issue of Archives of Internal Medicine, states that women with either a TSH ((thyrotropin or thyroid stimulating hormone) below 1.0 or above 2.1 had a two fold greater risk for developing Alzheimer’s. TSH is one of the lab tests that diagnose the health of your thyroid function. The thryoid affects every function of your body and cells. It has been proven that thyroid imbalance affects your mental and emotional state. More women are affected by thyroid imbalance than men. Part of the reason for this is our complex hormonal system. This data was based on information gained in the famous Framingham Study. This research work studied 2000 individuals over years for dementia. TSH levels are connected to Alzheimer’s.
Smoking: If you have only this one risk factor, you are 26 percent more likely to develop Alzheimer’s. Smoking also puts you at an accelerated risk for lung cancer and lung disease.
Mental Fitness: Using your brain certainly is one of the factors to help prevent or slow down Alzheimer’s. Games, crossword puzzles, jig saw puzzles, word games, number games, mentally stimulating articles and work all help to keep your mind healthy. People, who continue to keep their mind challenged and continue to grow intellectually, do much better in those advancing years.
Vitamin E: Vitamin E destroys free radical cell nerve damage. They feel this helps prevent or slow down Alzheimer’s.
Folate Levels: Numerous research studies have shown that people who take higher levels of Folate reduce their risk for developing Alzheimer’s. One of these research studies were published in the Jan 2007 issue of the Archives of Neurology. Higher folate intake is linked to lower homocysteine levels which is one factor in developing Alzheimer’s. High levels of homocysteine increase the risk for strokes and cardiovascular disease. Folate, Vitamin B12 and B6 are all involved in the production of homeocysteine. Deficiencies of these three vitamins can increase its production. There is more research needed to fully understand this link to Alzheimer’s. Folate levels are only one element in the Alzheimer’s disease. Taking folate supplements will not alone prevent or slow down Alzheimer’s.
Physical Activity: Most physicians advise from research studies that physical exercise helps to slow down or prevent Alzheimer’s. They are not sure of how much it helps but that it does. As a caregiver, I must say that in some cases patients are physically fit but mentally lost. I took care of two Alzheimer’s patients, both in the worst stages of memory loss, who were better physically fit than I was. One could perform perfect yoga poses including standing on her head at 85 and the other walked miles every day. The agency responsible for her private care, could not find a care giver to keep up with her. Yet in both cases, they suffered very severe mental loss and impairment. I also have seen seniors who remember how to dance perfectly but could remember little else. These patients were all perfect physically but mentally very severe. Physical activity is one of the important factors involved in Alzheimer’s development but not all of the answer. I think most experts would agree that physical fitness is important overall to health and longevity. It also helps prevent other diseases as well.
Preventing and slowing down Alzheimer’s involves looking at all the factors above, consulting with family, friends, nursing staff, and working with physicians to adopt a plan which can best help the individual in their present situation and the coming years.