Did you know that the month of November is Alzheimer’s awareness month? The month of November actually has many awareness days, but Thinco will focus on Alzheimer’s disease in our November article. If you are unfamiliar with Alzheimer’s disease or just want some more information about it due to a family member being diagnosed or it is running in your family history, this is the article for you. This article will discuss what Alzheimer’s disease is, the associated symptoms and risk factors, and how you can minimise the risk. Let’s dive into it.
So, what is Alzheimer’s disease? Alzheimer’s disease is characterised by cognitive and behavioural decline. Eventually, symptoms will become severe enough to disrupt normal activities. Alzheimer’s disease is the main cause of dementia, which is marked by memory loss and other problems with thinking that are bad enough to get in the way of daily life. Between 60% and 80% of all cases of dementia can be attributed to Alzheimer’s. The onset of Alzheimer’s disease is not inevitable with advancing age. Most people with Alzheimer’s are beyond the age of 65, making ageing the most important risk factor. If an individual is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s before age 65, they are said to have “younger-onset Alzheimer’s disease.” Also known as early-onset Alzheimer’s disease, this form of the disease manifests at a younger age. Patients with Alzheimer’s who develop the disease at a younger age may be in any stage of the illness. Over time, Alzheimer’s disease progresses. Dementia symptoms in Alzheimer’s patients tend to deteriorate over the course of the disease. In the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease, memory loss is moderate, but in the later stages, patients lose the capacity to have a conversation and respond to their surroundings. On average, a person with Alzheimer’s disease can expect to live between 4 and 8 years after being diagnosed. In some cases, this range goes beyond 20 years.
Although there is currently no cure for Alzheimer’s disease, aducanumab (AduhelmTM) is the first medicine to show that clearing the brain of amyloid — a hallmark of the disease—is expected to slow the progression of cognitive and functional deterioration in people with early-stage Alzheimer’s. But treatments can also improve the quality of life for people with Alzheimer’s and their caregivers by temporarily slowing the progression of dementia symptoms. There is an international effort going on right now to find more effective treatments, ways to delay the start of the disease, and ways to stop it from happening.
Now you could be wondering, what are the symptoms of Alzheimer’s? One of the first signs of Alzheimer’s disease is a loss of the ability to remember new information. Our brains undergo similar transformations as we age as the rest of our bodies. Eventually, we all start to experience some mental slowdown and occasional memory lapses. But a big change in how you think, like forgetting things or getting confused, could mean that your brain cells are dying.
Alterations caused by Alzheimer’s disease frequently start in the brain’s learning centre. Disorientation, mood, and behaviour changes; increasing confusion about events, time, and place; increasing unfounded suspicions of family, friends, and professional caregivers; more severe memory loss and behaviour changes; and difficulty speaking, swallowing, and walking are all symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease as it progresses through the brain.
People with memory loss or other possible Alzheimer’s symptoms might find it hard to admit they have a problem. Dementia symptoms may be more noticeable to close associates than to strangers. See a doctor immediately if you or a loved one are exhibiting dementia-like symptoms. The Alzheimer’s Association in your area might be able to suggest a specialist with experience figuring out what’s wrong with memory. Treatment alternatives and support networks can enhance the quality of life, and earlier diagnostic, and intervention approaches are vastly improving.
Let’s now dive into the causes and risk factors for Alzheimer’s Disease. Researchers have concluded that Alzheimer’s disease likely has multiple underlying causes. A combination of genetics, lifestyle choices, and environmental factors probably contributed to its development. Scientists have pinpointed causes that raise the odds of developing Alzheimer’s disease. Age, family history, and heredity are all unchangeable risk factors, but new research suggests there may be others.
Even though Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia are more likely to happen as people get older, they don’t always happen. Though being older raises your odds, it does not trigger Alzheimer’s disease itself. The average age of a person diagnosed with the condition is 65. When people reach age 65, their risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease doubles every five years. After the age of 85, nearly one-third of the population is at risk.
The history of a person’s family is another important component. A person’s chance of getting Alzheimer’s increases if a parent, sibling, aunt, uncle, or cousin has the disease. The risk rises if there is a history of the disease in more than one family member. Diseases with a strong familial component may have their roots in genetics, the environment, or both.
Alzheimer’s disease has been linked to genetics for some time now. A person’s susceptibility to developing a disease can be affected by two types of genes: risk genes and deterministic genes. Both groups have been discovered to contain Alzheimer’s disease genes. Less than one per cent of Alzheimer’s cases are thought to have a clear genetic basis (genes that cause the disease, rather than increase the risk of developing a disease).
Even though our age, family history, and genes can’t be changed, new evidence suggests that we may be able to change other risk factors by making healthy lifestyle choices and taking care of any underlying medical problems.
Injuries to the head have been linked to an increased chance of developing dementia in the future. You can prevent brain damage by always using safety equipment, such as seat belts, sports helmets, and “fall-proofing” your home.
There is considerable evidence between heart health and brain health. Given that the brain is fed by one of the body’s most extensive networks of blood capillaries and that the heart is responsible for pumping blood to the brain, it is logical that the two organs would be linked.
A growing body of evidence suggests that adopting habits that promote healthy ageing can protect against cognitive decline in old age, potentially lowering the risk of getting Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia. Tobacco and excessive alcohol consumption should also be avoided, and physical and mental exercise routines should be maintained.
So, how can you reduce your risk of Alzheimer’s and other dementias? Let’s explore this together. Firstly, we have physical activity. Physical activity is one of the best things you can do to lower your risk of dementia. For one, physical and mental health have numerous benefits. Increasing your physical activity may seem daunting, or you may be concerned that you’ll have to force yourself to do something you hate. Discover what you enjoy doing and stick with it. Begin with a manageable amount of exercise and work your way up to more if that’s easier.
Aerobic exercise and resistance training are the two most common kinds of physical movement. There are a variety of methods which can help you stay fit. By doing a few of these things, you can reduce your risk of getting dementia.
Proper nutrition can help you avoid many diseases, including dementia. For example, it can help you avoid cancer, type 2 diabetes, obesity, stroke, and heart disease. The brain’s health cannot be improved by consuming any one meal, component, or nutrient. Instead, the key is to eat various foods in appropriate portions. It’s what nutritionists call a “balanced” diet. A healthy brain needs a lot of different nutrients, and you’re more likely to get all of them if you eat a well-balanced diet. The NHS Eatwell guide explains all the different parts of a healthy diet and how much of each is needed daily. Some dietary patterns, like the Mediterranean diet, have been shown to reduce the risk of developing dementia. A Mediterranean diet doesn’t mean you can only eat foods that are usually eaten in the Mediterranean area. Try to stick to these rules instead:
Eat plenty of whole-grain starches like whole-meal bread, rice, and pasta.
You should often eat fruits, vegetables, pulses (like beans, peas, and lentils), nuts, and seeds.
Reduce your consumption of beef, lamb, and processed meats like hot dogs, sausage, and bacon.
Regular consumption of oily fish, such as salmon and mackerel, is highly recommended. However, you should restrict your intake of breaded or coated fish because it is a good source of harmful fat.
In cases where you must have dairy, opt for the low-fat versions.
Olive oil and rapeseed oil are just two examples of plant-based oils that work well in the kitchen. Avoid using solid fats such as butter, lard, and ghee if possible.
Consume no more than 6 grammes (approximately a teaspoon) of salt per day.
Pastries, candies, cookies, cakes, and chocolate should ideally be saved for special occasions.
If you don’t currently drink, cut back, and eat before drinking.
Dementia is more likely to occur in people who smoke cigarettes. Blood vessels in the brain, heart, and lungs are particularly vulnerable to damage from smoking. Infinitely better health outcomes can be achieved anytime by refraining from tobacco use. However, the less brain damage you sustain if you quit early, the better off you’ll be.
Drink Less Alcohol
The chance of acquiring dementia is raised when one consumes excessive amounts of alcohol. Do you drink alcohol regularly? Stay within the safe and healthy guidelines. Extreme binge drinking results in toxic quantities of substances entering the brain. Try not to consume more than 14 units of alcohol every week. This is roughly the equivalent of one daily pint of beer or one daily small glass of wine. If you drink more than this amount of alcohol regularly, you are more likely to hurt your brain and other organs, which makes you more likely to get dementia.
Stay Mentally and Socially Active
Taking part in mental or social activities has been linked to a stronger ability to deal with illness, less stress, and a better mood. This suggests that doing these things may slow the start of dementia or even stop it from happening. The best way to keep your mind sharp is to regularly engage in mentally taxing pursuits. Puzzles and crosswords are just two examples of the many different things you can do. Adding things to your daily routine that make you use your brain, such as learning something new or practising critical thinking, will help you live a longer, healthier life. For instance,
Any kind of adult education or learning a craft, especially in a group. For example, volunteering with the Alzheimer’s Society Playing a sport or game; hobbies like playing cards, chess, or board games; reading; joining a book club; reading; writing; keeping a journal; learning a new language, and keeping a diary. Use your smartphone or tablet (such as an iPad) with apps that challenge your brain. Apps in this genre tend to be puzzles, memory, or board games.
Participating in group events can help keep your brain healthy and stave off dementia. This includes both face-to-face and virtual meetings with other people. This means that maintaining relationships with those who are dear to you, including friends and family, is crucial.
Take Control of your Health
Certain illnesses, such as high blood pressure and diabetes, are more common as people age. Dementia risk may be raised in patients with several disorders. Getting a check-up is a crucial preventative measure.