6 Factors Increasing Your Alzheimer's Risk
6 Factors Increasing Your Alzheimer's Risk
If you're concerned at all about you or a loved one developing Alzheimer's disease, I have two important pieces of news for you today...
First, researchers from Saarland University in Germany have developed a blood test that could be used to detect Alzheimer's before symptoms appear. The test is still in very early stages of development, but has shown to have a 93% accuracy rate for detecting Alzheimer's.
Why is this important?
If Alzheimer's disease (AD) is caught early enough, there are numerous therapies that can effectively slow its progression and extend the time that people can carry out the basic activities of daily living without assistance, reducing the burden on the family.
Until a cure is found, slowing the progression and reducing symptoms is the best way we have to treat this brain-ravaging disease.
The second big piece of news involves discovery of a possible new risk factor: gum disease.
Signs of the bacterium [that cause gum disease], known as Porphyromonas gingivalis, were found in four out of 10 samples of brain tissue from Alzheimer's patients, while no signs of the bug were found in 10 brains from people of similar age who never developed dementia, according to the results of the study published in the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease.1
This isn't the first time gum disease has been associated with the development of other diseases: It's also found to be linked to heart disease, cancer, and respiratory (lung) disease.
Researchers are unsure of the link between the bacteria and AD, although a current theory is that once in the brain, the bacteria produce chemicals that contribute to the degeneration of the brain cells.
The simple preventative measure here is to brush and floss regularly as well as be sure to visit your dentist at least once a year (ideally, once every six months).
Of course, reducing your risk of developing Alzheimer's disease is much more complex than a regular visit to the DDS...
Nobody yet knows what causes it, but we do know there are many factors involved in its development. Primary among those factors are genetics and age. As we cannot control either of those two factors, let's take a look at some other factors linked to Alzheimer's that you can control...
1) Head trauma. There's a link between head trauma and Alzheimer's disease, especially when a loss of consciousness is involved. Taking the proper precautions in anything that exposes you to head injuries, whether it be wearing a helmet while on a construction site or always wearing your seatbelt while driving, will go a long way in reducing your risk of head trauma.
2) Physical inactivity. Couch potatoes have a higher risk of developing Alzheimer's than those who exercise regularly. You don't need to be an Olympic weight-lifter to get the benefits of exercise... Simply taking a 20-30 minute walk each day can be a refreshing experience for your brain and stave off the development of AD.
3) Being stressed out. People who are susceptible to stress increase their risk of developing Alzheimer's. It's believed that the hormone that's released due to stress (cortisol) may help in the formation of the plaques that are thought to strangle the brain cells in Alzheimer's victims. If you think you have a problem with stress, I'd recommend taking up yoga, Tai Chi, or practicing meditation.
4) Being mentally under-stimulated. Staring at a screen all day may be taking its toll. People who fail to challenge their brain are at a higher risk of developing Alzheimer's than people who regularly partake in mind-stimulating activities. These activities can be as simple as completing crossword puzzles or reading a few hours a week... to as complex as learning a new language. For brain-stimulating games and puzzles you can do while you travel or from the comfort of your favorite armchair, check out The Big Book of Brain Games.
5) Poor cardiovascular health. Your cardiovascular system is intricately linked to your brain, as it supplies the blood to your organs. This blood in turn supplies the oxygen and nutrients the brain needs to survive. Anything that disrupts this link increases your risk of developing AD: heart disease, heart attacks, strokes, and so on.
Things you can avoid to improve your cardiovascular health include smoking, excessive alcohol consumption, and junk food. Go a step further and eat plenty of fruits, veggies, nuts and meats, and exercise regularly to keep your ticker in tip-top shape.
6) Being overweight or obese, or having type 2 diabetes. All of these are problems associated with an abnormal reaction to blood sugar and the subsequent insulin resistance. Researchers think it's this abnormal insulin reaction that may increase your risk of developing Alzheimer's.
In fact, people with type 2 diabetes are twice as likely to develop Alzheimer's as non-diabetics, with obesity providing a similar increase in risk.
If and whenever possible, avoid foods that drive the abnormal insulin response in the first place: processed foods, especially things containing sugar or refined carbohydrates — anything with "corn," "potato," "wheat," "syrup," or "flour" in the ingredients list).
While researchers continue to work around the clock to find a cure for Alzheimer's disease, there is a glimmer of hope in that much of the scientific evidence increasingly shows many cases of Alzheimer's can be prevented with many of the lifestyle changes I mentioned above.
More than 50% of cases of Alzheimer's disease could be prevented through lifestyle changes and reducing major risk factors like low education, smoking, lack of exercise, and treating and preventing chronic conditions like depression, diabetes and mid-life high blood pressure and obesity, say researchers from the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF).2
Making the changes can be tough for many people...
But I assure you, the burden of Alzheimer's for the affected and on his or her family is much tougher.
Yours in health,
Ken Swearengen for Health Wire