What Factors Increase Your Risk for Alzheimer’s?
Did you know that Alzheimer’s Disease is not a normal part of aging? While age is a contributing factor to the disease, a diagnosis can be attributed to poor health and wellness management and lifestyle choices sustained over long periods of time. The disease is the cumulative effect of choices your make (or do not make) every day of your life. Knowing that cognitive decline is something that can be deferred or even avoided all together is an important aspect to motivate each of us to take our health more seriously. In addition to making the right choices for our health, it’s important to understand that persistence is the key to protecting our cognitive (and physical) health as we age. And it’s really never too late to start making the right changes.
Factors That May Increase Your Risk
There is no single lifestyle issue that has been proven to cause Alzheimer’s disease, but clinical research studies around the world have evaluated common characteristics between individuals who have been diagnosed with the disease. For Type I and Type II diabetics, poorly controlled glucose is known to damage cognitive abilities. There is some statistic evidence that demonstrates high blood sugar as a precursor to developing Alzheimer’s in both men and women.
Cigarette smoking is also statistically correlated as a possible factor in cognitive decline. The University of Eastern Finland and Kuopio University Hospital conducted a study of 21,123 members within their healthcare system who were between the ages of fifty to sixty years. The mean age of the participants was 71.6 years and they were evaluated between the years 1978 to 1985 with follow up study in 2008. The study reported that for individuals who smoked on average about two packs of cigarettes per day, the following number developed cognitive decline:
- 25.4% of participants were diagnosed with dementia as little as 23 years after the initial study.
- Of the participants diagnosed with dementia, 1,136 had Alzheimer’s Disease
- Many participants had developed vascular dementia, where oxygen flow is constricted due to hardened or blocked arteries causing cognitive damage or stroke.
It is important to note that the study evaluated individuals who smoked two packs per day during their middle aged life (approximately thirties and forties). Individuals who quit smoking in the midlife years did not show the same prevalence of cognitive decline; quitting demonstrated a significant health benefit.
Other factors that can contribute to the development of Alzheimer’s disease or dementia include:
- Sedentary lifestyle (low exercise).
- Inadequate natural nutrition (diet with minimal fruits and vegetables).
- High cholesterol.
Lowering Your Risk
If you think that your current lifestyle places you at risk for developing dementia or other cognitive impairments that will impact the quality of your senior life, there is no time like the present to begin to make healthy changes.
- Enjoy a robust social life and activity. Some studies have shown that close social interactions with peers and family members can help keep cognitive processes engaged.
- Monitor your key numbers (blood pressure, blood glucose and cholesterol) annually and discuss preventative measures with your physician.
- Engage in lifelong learning. Continuous learners were found to have lower rates of dementia and other types of cognitive decline.
- Eat your fruits and vegetables! Get fresh produce on your plate daily.