Reduce your Risk of Alzheimer’s Disease
Grace Weatherby
/ Categories: WELLNESS, 2023

Reduce your Risk of Alzheimer’s Disease

According to Alzheimer’s Disease International, the number of people living with dementia is set to almost triple by 2050. Alzheimer’s is the most common form of dementia, currently affecting an estimated 6.7 million Americans age 65 and older. Even more concerning than that big number is the fact that between 2009 and 2019, the percentage of deaths in the U.S. from Alzheimer’s disease increased by 145%.

Researchers now recognize that Alzheimer’s is a progressive disease in which the symptoms gradually worsen over a number of years. In fact, it is believed that Alzheimer’s begins many years—possibly 10-15 or even more—before the onset of symptoms. While there is currently no cure, detecting Alzheimer’s early makes it easier to plan for care and to begin therapeutic interventions as early as possible.

The theme of this year’s World Alzheimer’s Month, ‘Never too early, never too late,’ emphasizes the importance of understanding the risk factors associated with Alzheimer’s and what you can do to prevent onset of the disease.

While some risk factors—age, family history and heredity—can't be changed, research is beginning to point to other risk factors we may be able to influence through general lifestyle and wellness choices. These include:

  • Physical inactivity
  • Smoking
  • Excessive alcohol consumption
  • Air pollution
  • Head injury
  • Infrequent social contact
  • Obesity
  • Diabetes
  • Depression
  • Hearing impairment
  • Heart disease
  • Stroke
  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol

Evidence suggests that adopting a healthy lifestyle and addressing these risk factors can work to improve overall physical and brain health and reduce the risk of cognitive decline, including dementia and Alzheimer’s.

In addition to working to prevent Alzheimer’s, it’s important to recognize the signs, especially in the early stages when interventions may prove most helpful.

Common signs of Alzheimer’s include:

  • Challenges in planning or solving problems.
  • Difficulty completing familiar tasks.
  • New problems with words, speaking, or writing.
  • Trouble understanding visual images or spatial relationships.
  • Confusion with time or place.
  • Decreased or poor judgement.
  • Withdrawal from work or social activities.
  • Changes in mood and personality.

If you notice one or more signs in yourself or others, it’s important to speak up. Many people hesitate to do so for fear of upsetting others or even labeling something that’s happening to themselves. However, these signs are very real and significant health concerns that should not be ignored. Speaking up and taking action, including being evaluated by a doctor, are the first steps to figuring out what’s happening and working to address it.

For more information on recognizing the signs of Alzheimer’s, click here.

For tips on how to talk to others about your concerns, click here.

 

Herbert Gregg, MD, is a neurologist at Southwestern Vermont Medical Center.

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