Today in the news :
This week, the Lancet Neurology medical journal published the results of an extensive study into the potential prevention of Alzheimer’s disease by avoiding seven significant, yet potentially avoidable, risk factors. They concluded that roughly half of all (33 million) cases of Alzheimer’s disease, worldwide, could be attributed to one or more of these risk factors, and that as much as one quarter of all cases could be prevented through healthier lifestyle choices.
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The seven risk factors, in descending order of magnitude, were identified as:
* Low education: “Use it or lose it” is an important credo in Alzheimer’s prevention. Schooling is key because stimulating the brain builds neural networks and the more education a person has the more likely they are to engage in stimulating brain activity. Yet, worldwide, 40 per cent of the population has a primary school education or less. The researchers estimated that low education was associated with 19.1 per cent of Alzheimer’s cases, or 6.4 million cases globally.
* Smoking: Among other things, smoking weakens blood vessels and it affects blood flow to the brain. But almost one-third of adults in the world still smoke. The research estimates 13.9 per cent of Alzheimer’s cases are linked to smoking.
* Physical inactivity: Studies show that people who are physically active have better cognitive abilities and are less likely to develop dementia. Worldwide about one in six people are inactive. The new study found that 12.7 per cent of Alzheimer’s cases were likely due to inactivity.
* Depression: People who suffer from depression have more than double the risk of developing dementia. About one in seven people in the world will suffer from serious depression. Researchers calculated that about 10.6 per cent of Alzheimer’s cases could be traced to depression.
* High blood pressure: About one in nine people in the world have hypertension in middle age. The study estimated that poorly-controlled blood pressure accounts for 5.1 per cent of Alzheimer’s cases.
* Diabetes: Research shows patients with type 2 diabetes have a significantly higher risk of developing Alzheimer’s. Globally, almost seven per cent of adults have diabetes. The research team found it could be responsible for about 2.4 per cent of Alzheimer’s cases.
*Obesity: Women and men who are obese at middle age have an increased risk of dementia later in life. Worldwide about 3.5 per cent of the population is both obese and middle-aged. The study found that obesity is associated with about two per cent of Alzheimer’s cases.
[source: Globe and Mail]
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If you’ve ever experienced Alzheimer’s disease in someone close to you, you know how painful it can be. Certainly not something I want to go through myself, or inflict on my loved ones.
So – what can you do, right now, to limit the likelihood that you’ll be one of the six million people – each year! – diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease?
1) Cut back on smoking – or, better still, quit entirely. You already know you should do it, this is just one more reason. You’ll save money and, once you get past the nicotine cravings, probably feel a lot healthier.
2) Get some exercise – if you’re totally inactive right now, then start out with a gentle aerobic activity like walking. As your physical condition improves, ramp it up – brisk walking, roller blading, swimming, rope-jumping, jogging, marathons… Great for your heart, brains, body – and even a good way to combat mild depression, because exercise releases feel-good endorphins.
3) Eat better – more fruits and vegetables, whole grains, beans… Less processed foods, sugar, fat… You’ll look better, feel better, lose weight, and be less likely to develop high blood pressure or diabetes.