How to reduce the risk of Alzheimer's

Many people think that all you can do when it comes to Alzheimer’s Disease is pray for the best. However, research suggests you may be able to reduce your risk of Alzheimer’s, slow down the disease or even reverse its effects.

In 2014, an estimated 5.3 million Americans were diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease. The average onset of the disease occurs around the age of 65 years or older and 75 percent of those diagnosed are women. Due to increased life expectancy and population growth, it is expected the number of people diagnosed will reach upwards of 7.1 million by the year 2025 unless a preventative cure is found.

Alzheimer's Disease is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States. While those diagnosed with the disease typically live an average of eight years after their symptoms become noticeable, survival can range from 4 to 20 years depending on age and the interaction of other medical conditions.

It is important to emphasize that although there is currently no known cure for Alzheimer’s Disease, there are things we can do to reduce our risk. It is believed that the majority of Alzheimer’s cases occur due things we cannot control, specifically age, family history and heredity.

The good news is that research has indicated making changes in general lifestyle and wellness choices, as well as proactive management of other health conditions can be beneficial in reducing that risk. The Alzheimer’s Association provides the following research-based guidelines to reduce the risk of developing the disease:

  • Avoid head trauma: Studies found there may be a strong link between serious head injury and risk of Alzheimer’s. Avoid head trauma by wearing a helmet when participating in sports, wearing your seatbelt and avoiding falls.
  • Monitor heart health: Evidence shows your heart health can directly affect brain health. Your heart nourishes your brain with its network of blood vessels. The risk of Alzheimer’s appears to increase in individuals with conditions that damage the heart blood vessels, such as diabetes, stroke, high blood pressure and heart disease. Work with your doctor to monitor your heart health and treat any problems that arise.
  • Live a healthy lifestyle: Using strategies for overall healthy again may also reduce your risk of Alzheimer’s. This includes watching your weight, staying social, exercising your mind, staying fit and avoiding excess alcohol and tobacco.

Improved understanding about this disease and methods to prevent controllable risks can facilitate better health. Should you have concerns related to any of the symptoms described above be sure to contact your doctor.  You can also visit the Alzheimer’s Association website for information concerning the disease and how loved ones can provide support.

Author: Nancy Dawkins, SLP