It is very important for scientists to discover viable ways of preventing Alzheimer’s disease. After all, we are spectacularly bad at treating it or slowing its progression.
As a doctor that provides care to nursing home patients I’m very practiced at taking care of Alzheimer’s patients. Almost worse than the actual memory loss, personality changes, suspiciousness and delusions is the pain the family members suffer as they watch their beloved mother, father or grandparent slowly fade away and become a stranger.
CAN we prevent Alzheimer’s disease? Well, I found some research that suggests there are things we can do to reduce the risk.
First of all, Alzheimer’s disease is a chronic, progressive, ultimately fatal degenerative disease of the brain. Patients lose their short term memory and then gradually lose older memories as well. They lose the ability to safely manage complex tasks like driving or balancing the checkbook. They also often become suspicious of family members and suffer from delusions (“My daughter is stealing from me.”) and may wander away from home and be unable to find their way back. It is a horrible disease.
Alzheimer’s disease becomes more common as we age. It’s estimated that 3-10% of patients over 65 have it, and it rises to 30-50% of patients over 85. It is the 4th leading cause of death for patients over 75 (after heart disease, cancer and stroke). Billions of dollars are spent on direct and indirect costs of managing Alzheimer’s disease.
One of the most interesting facts about Alzheimer’s disease is that since it usually shows up at the END of life, if we can DELAY its onset fewer patients will get it. It is estimated that if we could delay its onset by 5 years, it would become about 50% less common.
So how can we delay and prevent Alzheimer’s disease? First, it is important to understand that there are NO medications that prevent Alzheimer’s disease.
While many, many scientists are furiously researching ways to decrease the risk of Alzheimer’s disease, it’s fair to say there are no proven methods. However, there is some evidence that three things can help.
1. Use it or lose it
Older adults who stay active and engaged in their community seem to have a lower risk of Alzheimer’s disease. Exercise also seems to decrease the risk. Adults who were more physically active had lower risks of dementia.
2. Maintain your weight
Older adults who suffer with obesity, diabetes and the metabolic syndrome have a higher risk of Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia. Staying lean not only reduces your risk of heart disease, heart attack, stroke, and cancer, it also helps you keep your mental faculties. Want to see what I recommend to my patients who need to lose weight? Check this link here.
Alzheimer’s disease seems to be increased in patients under chronic inflammatory and oxidative stress. Supplements that decrease inflammation and have antioxidant activity seem to decrease the risk of Alzheimer’s disease, although much more research is needed. Selenium, vitamins C and E, transition metals, vitamin D, B-complex vitamins, and omega-3 fatty acids have all been mentioned in connection with decreasing the risk of dementia. You can check here to see my supplement recommendations for specific groups of people.
So what should you do, if you want to decrease your risk of Alzheimer’s disease and stay sharp into your ripe old age? In short, stay active and engaged, exercise regularly, eat right and stay lean, and take a well-designed supplement regimen that contains plenty of antioxidants and other supplements that decrease inflammation.