Did you know that it is possible to reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease by more than 50%? Alzheimer’s disease accounts for 60 to 80% of dementia cases. The World Health Organization defines dementia as a deterioration in memory, reasoning, comprehension, orientation, learning ability, numeracy, language and judgment. This aptly describes a large number of cognitive problems that hamper the daily life of people affected.
This article brings together a lot of information that is relevant to understanding dementia and Alzheimer’s disease while providing useful tips for reducing risk or slowing progression.
The main risks
Without going into detail, since another blog post deals specifically with the subject, know that there are a large number of genetic factors that can increase the risks, but their expression and impact depend on your overall lifestyle habits. About 33% of the population will be affected by the disease by the age of 80. We could group the risks under three main categories: genetics (involved in about 30% of cases), lifestyle habits (particularly those that influence circulation and blood pressure) and the use of certain drugs (which would explain up to in 10% of cases). These risks are of course linked to the functioning of the brain.
How does the brain work?
Since dementia affects our brains, it is important to understand how this very complex machine works. Basically, the different sections of the brain communicate with each other through neurotransmitters (chemical messages) and neurons (nerve connections). Each region of this organ includes a constant balance of various neurotransmitters that can alter many facets, such as; our perception, our moods, our ability to concentrate, our level of alertness and our ability to move our body. You will then understand that the brain has many diverse regions that are constantly changing for their chemical balance. As for the blood vessels (veins, arteries and capillaries), they are the ones that allow the molecules necessary for functioning to be transported through the different parts of this organ.
What happens if these blood vessels are damaged? Some regions may lack the molecules they need to function, but above all, lack oxygen. The larger the blood vessel, the greater the consequences can be. Brain cells are particularly sensitive to the lack of oxygen and die quickly. Therefore, after 5 minutes the cells already lack oxygen and after about 10 minutes there is already irreparable damage. So, if these blood vessels become weak or blocked, the risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s will increase. Be aware that although some small affected areas may go unnoticed in terms of symptoms, they are a potential development center for degeneration. It is strongly recommended that you reduce or eliminate the following bad habits that cause damage to the blood vessels:
- Sedentary lifestyles,
- Obesity, and
- High blood pressure.
This is also valid for shocks caused to the brain such as concussions. These shocks will damage or break certain blood vessels which will increase the risk of developing dementia or Alzheimer’s disease in the medium to long term.
Take action now!
Do you have cases of dementia in your family? Know that it is not too late! Regarding Alzheimer’s disease, we are talking about 30% of cases that are a genetic dependence and even for these cases, lifestyle habits can greatly reduce the risks. Your genetics are therefore not an inevitable end. It is your lifestyle that dictates if your genetic risks are expressed or not.
Note that Canada’s new food guide is already a good start! If you want to go further, we suggest adopting the MIND (Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay) diet, which, according to a study, helps reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s by 54%. This diet prioritizes foods of high nutritional quality such as leafy green vegetables, whole grains, nuts, berries, legumes, fish and poultry. Also, according to this diet, it is recommended to consume the following as little as possible: red meat, butter, margarine, cheese, desserts or any other processed foods.
Another food that shouldn’t be overlooked; eggs. Indeed, these would have a positive impact on the reduction of the risks of dementia by their composition in Vitamin B12, in lutein and in choline. Note that it is not harmful to eat 1 or 2 eggs a day.
Here, you are not asked to become an Olympic athlete or climb Mount Everest tomorrow morning! All you need to do is stay active on a daily basis and promote demanding activities that will work your brain by activating several systems at the same time (coordination of movements, balance, speech, feeling, etc.). Here are a few examples: playing tennis; eye-movement, dance; rhythm-movement, etc. To have a healthy brain, you have to use it to its full potential.
By being active daily, you will also improve your blood circulation, the health of your mitochondria (small energy powerhouses) and increase the volume of your hippocampus, which is known as the seat of memory. That’s not all! The same day, the benefits of physical activity will impact your memory. Physical activity alone could reduce the risk of dementia by 50%. Remember that it is very important to be active every day to maintain these benefits. Being active in daily life (housekeeping, cleaning, walking, social life) is already beneficial in itself.
You probably won’t be surprised to read that poor quality sleep promotes the development of several diseases. This also applies to cases of dementia and Alzheimer’s. One study showed an increased risk in people who slept no more than 5 hours a night. Be careful, the use of chemical sleeping pills could increase the risks. There are recommendations to stop their use. Furthermore, to help you regain a natural, deep and restful sleep, we suggest you try Vitoli® Sleep and/or Vitoli® Stress and Anxiety.
The lack of studies on the link between stress and Alzheimer’s disease makes it difficult to have access to exact percentages, but there is no doubt that reducing stress would be an effective approach in decreasing the risk of the disease. If this is part of your daily challenges, we invite you to visit the Fatigue and Stress tab of the Vitoli blog which contains a lot of information and practical advice. In addition, other lifestyle habits have a significant impact on stress management, as much for diet, physical activity, sleep, as the quality of the social life.
Quality social life
This is not the first time that we have mentioned that good social connections increase the chances of living healthier longer. Indeed, this has been demonstrated thanks to a study from Harvard University. After observing 10,228 people over a 28-year period, the study found that people over the age of 60 who enjoyed the company of friends every day lowered their risk of dementia by 12%. Everything suggests that this percentage tends to increase if the quality of social life increases.
If you want to deepen your reading on ways to reduce the risk of dementia, we recommend the article Prevention of Dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease which presents the 7 suggestions to increase your cognitive reserves as well as some additional tips from Dr. Antoine Hakim.
Alzheimer’s is a terrible disease that affects people and their loved ones. A piece from Vitoli’s blog is about How to Foster a Supportive Interaction with Someone with Alzheimer’s. These tips can better equip you to support them properly. Also, don’t forget to take good care of yourself so that you are able to take care of a loved one. Take a few minutes to review the recommendations on this topic (“Help yourself in order to be able to help others”) in our article on taking care of the family. You should also know that certain organizations can help you, for example L’Appui pour les proches aidants (https://www.lappui.org/en) or the Alzheimer Society in your region.
What about the research?
Alzheimer’s disease is a degenerative disease. Which means it’s progressive and the situation will gradually get worse. Some studies even pointed out that the disease could start to take hold 20 years before symptoms appear. Several research teams are working to diagnose the disease earlier so that they can intervene before the damage is too severe. Studies led by Pedro Rosa-Neto and Serge Gauthier here in Quebec have reportedly identified markers in the blood that could be used to diagnose the disease. This is very positive, but prevention will always remain your best ally.
The most common form of the disease, which accounts for 95% of cases, is linked to aging processes. Recently, a research team identified a protein that would have a key role in the energy regulation of cells in connection with the presence of amyloid proteins. Remember that the aggregates of amyloid proteins and TAU proteins cause Alzheimer’s disease. This could allow the development of new approaches to prevent or slow the progression of the disease by reducing its impact on the energy management of cells.
A final important discovery concerns one of the genetic risk factors. Carriers of APO-E4, a genetic mutation that alters the transport of lipids in the blood, would need to consume a much larger amount of omega-3 to allow the brain to get enough. This is one of the mutations known to further increase the risk of developing Alzheimer’s. Thus, taking a supplement or consuming food that is very high in omega-3s may help reduce the risks associated with this mutation.
Research continues and science is making significant advances in combating this disease. Remember, there is always time to take action that will improve your chances of healthy aging! For your cognitive health, in addition to recommendations on healthy lifestyles that must be prioritized, we specifically offer our Vitoli® Cardiovascular formula which helps in the health of blood vessels as well as Vitoli® Memory & Cognitive Health. I hope this article has helped you see things better and gives you the tools you need to maintain your cognitive health.
Other suggested articles:
- Risk factors for Dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease
- Cognitive Health and Aging
- Prevention of Dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease
- Understanding Alzheimer’s Disease
- Alzheimer’s and Healthy Lifestyles
- How to Promote a Supportive Interaction with Someone Suffering from Alzheimer’s
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