By: Erin Stair, MD, MPH
Even though there are things I would love to forget, I definitely want to do what I can to prevent Alzheimer’s disease when I’m older. I’m hoping, by that time, I’ll have more experiences that I want to remember. 😉
A new study published in the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery and Psychiatry reports that 9 risk factors have been linked to Alzheimer’s disease, and in fact, may be at the root of 66% of Alzheimer’s cases. While each factor has a different attributable risk ( meaning one factor might have a greater chance of causing Alzheimer’s than the other), the really good news is that ALL of the risk factors are modifiable, and therefore we can all make healthy lifestyle changes to lower our risk.
The nine risk factors are:
1. Obesity 2. Carotid Artery Narrowing 3. Low Educational Achievement 4. Hyperhomocysteine 5. Depression 6. Hypertension 7. Frailty 8. Current Smoking 9. Type 2 Diabetes.
Right away, we should notice that eating a healthy DIET should help lower our risk for Obesity, Type 2 Diabetes, Hypertension and Carotid Artery Narrowing, therefore lowering our risk for Alzheimer’s disease. Exercising regularly will also help modify those risk factors and lower our risk further. A good resistance training program and a healthy diet should help prevent frailty and therefore modify that risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease.
Smoking? Well, the best thing a smoker can do is quit as soon as possible, which is hard to do but there are a lot of great wellness tools now available to help with the process. ( Think, ZenTones and other mindfulness exercises!).
Depression? Definitely seek help early for depressive symptoms, and also diet, exercise and proper sleep hygiene are shown to significantly help combat depression.
Low educational achievement may be hard to modify, but maybe it will motivate us as a society to improve our educational system and access to a quality education.
Hyperhomocysteine? Too much of this amino acid has been linked to a lot of BAD things, such as heart disease, thrombosis, and weak bones. If you don’t have a genetic predisposition to hyperhomocysteine ( which includes about 10% of the population) the best thing you can do to avoid it is eat foods high in B vitamins 6, 9 and 12. I also supplement with Vitamin B12, because I think it’s so important. Those B vitamins act as co-enzymes that break down homocysteine to a more benign molecule.
Will modifying all 9 risk factors prevent Alzheimer’s disease? Surely not for everyone, but it certainly can only help and not hurt.