Mark A. Mahoney
An estimated 6.2 million Americans age 65 and older are living with Alzheimer’s dementia in 2021. Seventy-two percent are age 75 or older. One in nine people age 65 and older (11.3%) has Alzheimer’s dementia. Almost two-thirds of Americans with Alzheimer’s are women.
By 2050, the number of people age 65 and older with Alzheimer’s dementia may grow to a projected 12.7 million, barring the development of medical breakthroughs to prevent, slow or cure Alzheimer’s disease.
In my May 18 2021 column in the Tallahassee Democrat, I focused on lifestyle choices with an emphasis on diet. As a follow-up to this past Saturday’s Alzheimer’s Association Walk to End Alzheimer’s in Tallahassee today’s column focuses on the impact that positive lifestyle changes can have on brain health.
The Alzheimer’s Association has compiled simple steps to follow to prevent cognitive decline and reduce the risk of dementia.
Lifestyle changes: Being proactive
A past study in Alzheimer’s and Dementia: the Journal of the Alzheimer’s Association concluded that people can reduce their risk of cognitive decline and dementia by making positive lifestyle changes.
1. Avoid brain injury
Wear a helmet when riding a bike or playing contact sports, a seatbelt in the car and work to prevent falls.
2. Challenge yourself
Challenging your mind has long and short-term benefits for your brain and can include anything from doing a puzzle to painting or playing a card game.
3. Eat a balanced and healthy diet
Eating green, leafy vegetables and following specific diets, like the MIND diet have been shown to help reduce the risk of dementia. See the following link for some prior information on the potential benefits of this diet at alzheimers.net.
4. Get quality sleep
People with sleep disorders or those who do not get enough sleep have an increased risk of developing Alzheimer’s and related dementias.
5. Maintain good cardiovascular health
Avoid diabetes, high blood pressure and obesity.
6. Participate in formal education, in any stage of life
Taking a class at a local college or community center can help reduce the risk of dementia.
7. Quit smoking
Studies have shown that quitting smoking can reduce the risk of dementia to the same as those who have not smoked. It’s not too late to quit!
8. Schedule time for cardiovascular exercise
Cardiovascular exercise, like running or swimming, increases blood flow to the brain and raises your heart rate.
9. Stay socially engaged
Stay involved in daily life with friends and social activities that are important to you.
10. Treat depression
Those with a history of anxiety and depression have an increased risk of dementia. Talk to a professional and take the recommended medication, if necessary.
There’s no cure for Alzheimer’s
The Alzheimer’s Association says that while these tips can help prevent cognitive decline, there is no cure or treatment for Alzheimer’s and related dementias.
In fact, Alzheimer’s is the only cause of death in the top 10 life-threatening conditions in the U.S. that cannot be definitively prevented or even slowed. The Peterson Health Systems Tracker (Kaiser Family Foundation) noted Alzheimer’s disease as the 7th leading cause of death in the U.S (September 2021).
Recent estimates indicate that the disorder may rank third, just behind heart disease and cancer, as a cause of death for older people. Go to the following website for a detailed fact sheet nia.nih.gov.
Phone contact details for the Alzheimer’s disease Education and Referral Center where on-line experts can answer questions is at: 800-438-4380 (toll-free)
General overall information covering many aspects of Alzheimer’s Disease & Related Dementias can be accessed at nia.nih.gov.
Information on facts and figures provided by the Alzheimer’s Association is available a talz.org/alzheimers-dementia.
Finally a special recent report from the Alzheimer’s Association, Race, Ethnicity and Alzheimer’s can be reviewed at alz.org/media.
Mark A. Mahoney, Ph.D. has been a Registered Dietitian/Nutritionist for over 35 years and completed graduate studies in Nutrition & Public Health at Columbia University. He can be reached at [email protected]
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