Risk Factors for Alzheimer’s
On a Daily basis I scour issues of Health and Medical magazines and Alzheimer’s Newsletters, hoping for more news on which fruit to eat, or how many miles to walk, or which vitamin or mineral to pop every morning with breakfast.
As a person with high-blood pressure and other heart related issues, I exercise daily, eat lots of fruits and vegetables and read the content label on every boxed-food I purchase. Still, I worry about the risk factor for Alzheimer’s.
I like having that regimen in my life as a way of preventing Alzheimer’s Disease. I keep thinking there must be something I can do to circumvent the genes I’ve surely inherited from a Mom who died of Alzheimer’s.
Yet news of Prevention, Cure or even Diagnosis about Alzheimer’s Disease is never a sure-thing. One day we hear that coffee causes Alzheimer’s the next day we hear that coffee helps Alzheimer’s. We know for a fact that long-term alcoholism can cause it’s own version of dementia, yet it’s often projected that a couple beers a day are good for you. Which is it?
It’s all questionable to me. I tend to read each new study with a “grain of salt” and follow the ones with the biggest numbers.
But this week, a new finding announced at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference 2011 in Paris (AAIC) has made an announcement that I can accept.
Scientists used mathematical modeling to calculate the percentage of Alzheimer’s cases that may be attributable to diabetes, mid-life hypertension, mid-life obesity, smoking, depression, low educational attainment and physical inactivity. The researchers caution that these estimates make an important assumption that has not yet been proven – but there is a causal relationship between the risk factors examined and Alzheimer’s disease, and modifying the risk factors will lower Alzheimer’s risk.
These are lifestyle-based risk factors that when changed appear to result in fewer cases of Alzheimer’s. That sounds good to me. It means there is something I CAN DO.
They found that roughly half of Alzheimer’s cases may potentially be attributable to modifiable risk factors. Together, seven modifiable risk factors contributed to as many as 17 million Alzheimer’s cases worldwide and nearly 3 million cases in the U.S.
At the AAIC 2011 Conference, the researchers reported those seven risk factors:
Specifically in the U.S. those Risk Factors included:
- physical inactivity 21 percent
- depression 15 percent
- smoking 11 percent
- mid-life hypertension 8 percent
- mid-life obesity 7 percent
- low education 7 percent
- diabetes 3 percent
These Seven Risk Factors contributed to about 50 percent of the Alzheimer’s cases. In the US that would amount to (54%, 2.9 million people). The list is a broad spectrum for sure. But it includes all the things we should do to improve our health anyway. And most of us are probably working on a few of these areas in our life right now; trying to stop smoking, trying to walk a mile a day, trying to lower the stress in our life. Maybe we just need to try harder.
In one sample group of older healthy adults with little cognitive decline, the researchers found that the most significant factors related to maintaining healthy cognition included low scores on measures of stress, anxiety, depression and trauma. This group of people showed resilience in the face of distressing life events, likely related to positive coping styles and the personality trait of “conscientiousness.”
This group of people had healthy coping styles, remaining positive, getting advice, and finally taking proper action when predicaments arose. A few other traits shown by this group of cognitively healthy adults were order, dutifulness, achievement striving and self-discipline.
From studies so far, healthy adults with good cognition are already working on the 7 Risk Factors in their lives. Whether Alzheimer’s is in your genes or not–Tackling this list of 7 Factors will improve your life.
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John Robbins has written just such a book to help us on this road to a healthy lifestyle. Robbins challenges readers to give up bad habits and adopt smarter routines concerning food, exercise and work, he distills the familiar philosophies of Dean Ornish and other gurus and serves up some hippie-dippy pap (“Dance in the moonlight”). His advice is commonsensical and scientifically sound, and readers seeking that elusive fountain of youth would be wise to listen up.