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7 Ways to Manage Alzheimer’s Risk

Last updated: November 1, 2023

Alzheimer’s disease is influenced by a combination of genetic, environmental, and lifestyle factors. Identifying and addressing modifiable risk factors is crucial to reducing your risk of developing the disease.

Lisa Nebel, Vice President of Post-Acute Care, ThedaCare

As we mark Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month this November, it’s a good time to familiarize yourself with signs and symptoms of the condition.

More than 6 million Americans live with Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia.

Doctors diagnose 3 million new cases of Alzheimer’s each year, and experts say the neurodegenerative disease is deadlier than breast cancer and prostate cancer combined. The number of people with Alzheimer’s or dementia is expected to increase as our population ages and as people live longer.

Alzheimer’s Disease Facts

Alzheimer’s is a complex condition that primarily affects the brain. People with the disease experience gradual deterioration of cognitive functions, including memory, thinking, and behavior.

While there’s no known cure for Alzheimer’s disease, there is growing evidence that certain risk factors may contribute to its development. You can take steps now to potentially stave off dementia and its progression to Alzheimer’s disease.  

“Alzheimer’s disease is influenced by a combination of genetic, environmental, and lifestyle factors,” says Lisa Nebel, Vice President of Post-Acute Care for ThedaCare. “Identifying and addressing modifiable risk factors is crucial to reducing your risk of developing the disease.”

7 Risk Factors

The exact cause of Alzheimer’s is still not fully understood, but experts have identified several risk factors.

  1. Age: The risk doubles every five years after the age of 65. Nearly one in three people over the age of 85 will develop Alzheimer’s.
  2. Genetics: Individuals with a family history of Alzheimer’s are at higher risk. Specific genetic factors, like the presence of certain genes, can also increase the risk of developing the disease.
  3. Cardiovascular health: Conditions such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes can all lead to increased risk.
  4. Inactivity: A sedentary lifestyle limits blood flow to the brain, increasing the risk of the disease.
  5. Poor diet and nutrition: A diet high in sugars, saturated and trans-fats, low-fiber foods, and high-sugar drinks puts people increases risk. This includes a high intake of fast food and processed foods.
  6. Loneliness and social isolation: Isolation and lack of social interaction can be detrimental to cognitive health.
  7. Sleep quality: Poor sleep and sleep disorders can contribute to cognitive decline. Sleep is restorative and crucial for cognitive function and memory consolidation.

7 Positive Steps to Take

These steps can help reduce your risk for developing Alzheimer’s.

  1. Lifestyle choices: Maintaining an overall healthy lifestyle is key. This includes not only eating well and exercising but also avoiding smoking and excessive alcohol consumption.
  2. Physical activity: Regular physical activity has been shown to have numerous benefits for brain health. Exercise promotes good blood flow to the brain, reducing risk of disease. Aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per week.
  3. Mindful eating: Adopt a brain-healthy diet rich in antioxidants, omega-3 fatty acids, and foods that promote heart health. These include fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Consider a Mediterranean diet as a well-rounded option.
  4. Cognitive Stimulation: Staying mentally active throughout life is protective. Engaging in activities like reading, puzzles, or learning new skills can help keep the brain healthy. Challenging your brain can enhance its resilience and may reduce the risk of cognitive decline.
  5. Social engagement: Stay socially active, foster relationships, and prioritize a strong support network. Maintaining an active social life and staying connected with friends and family is essential.
  6. Adequate sleep: Good sleep hygiene includes ensuring a comfortable sleep environment and establishing a regular sleep schedule. It’s also important to address any sleep disorders.
  7. Regular Checkups: Regular medical checkups are crucial for monitoring and managing cardiovascular risk factors like high blood pressure and diabetes. Early detection and management can reduce Alzheimer’s risk.

Seeking Care

If you notice mild or moderate symptoms of Alzheimer’s, talk to your primary care provider. They can help guide you to treatment options and specialist care.

Aging is inevitable. But with the right choices and lifestyle modifications, we can better equip ourselves to face the challenges that come with it.

“By adopting a proactive approach to brain health, individuals can potentially reduce their risk of Alzheimer’s disease and enjoy a higher quality of life as they age,” Nebel says.

Tags: aging Alzheimer’s disease dementia memory care senior care

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