Memory loss and Alzheimer’s disease may seem like distant concerns. But taking care of your brain isn’t something you should put off.
Is your brain in trouble?
Dementia can impair your memory, thinking, and speech. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia.
“Dementia can sneak up on people because they don’t like to think about the possibility that something is wrong,” says Dale Bredesen, MD. “So, they write off the warning signs.” Plus, the symptoms of early-onset Alzheimer’s (diagnosed before age 65) may not be what you expect.
Later-onset dementia often starts as purely a memory problem and then spreads to other cognitive dysfunction, explains Bredesen. Worsening memory isn’t the only symptom you should be watching out for.
Younger people with dementia may first experience difficulty with
- speech, such as finding the right words
- organizing things
- recognizing faces or objects
- making calculations, such as restaurant tips
Genetics and risk
Several genes increase your risk for Alzheimer’s disease, but your genetics don’t determine your destiny.
“Scientific evidence shows that several lifestyle changes can reduce your risk of Alzheimer’s disease, regardless of your genetic predisposition,” says Demetrius Maraganore, MD.
That said, genetic testing may help you and your health care practitioner better focus your prevention efforts.
“Consider getting genetically tested to see if you carry the apolipoprotein-e4 (APOE-e4) risk variant for Alzheimer’s disease,” says Maraganore.
Subtyping Alzheimer’s disease
You may think of Alzheimer’s disease as a single entity. But many different paths can lead to the condition. Bredesen classifies Alzheimer’s according to the most likely underlying factors in a given individual, including
- increased inflammation due to APOE-e4 genetics
- high blood sugar and insulin resistance, as in prediabetes and type 2 diabetes
- hormonal disruption (such as thyroid issues) and nutritional deficiency
- toxicity due to factors such as air pollution and biological toxins from mold
- vascular disorders, such as heart disease and high blood pressure
- head injuries, such as those sustained in sports or car crashes
Generally, multiple factors are involved, so prevention should be multipronged. These are some steps you can take.
Eat for your brain
“The importance of diet in preventing dementia cannot be overemphasized,” says Arnold Eiser, MD. He says the Mediterranean diet appears helpful for reducing Alzheimer’s risk.
Getting regular aerobic exercise—such as moderately paced walking, jogging, cycling, or swimming—may reduce your risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. New research also suggests strength training (think using dumbbells or weight machines) helps protect brain function.
Optimize your sleep
“When you sleep seven to eight hours a night, it may reduce your odds of dementia by slowing the rate that beta-amyloid accumulates in your brain,” says Maraganore. Beta-amyloid plaque can interfere with brain function.
Bolster your brain
The more you build up your brain through education and challenging mental activities, the more resilience your brain has against dementia, says Bredesen.
BetsyHealth Note: This article is for educational purposes only. It is not intended to diagnose, treat, prevent or cure any disease. Consult your healthcare provider before trying a supplement, especially if you have a medical condition, including being pregnant or nursing, take prescription or over-the-counter medications, or are planning on having surgery.
Article copyright 2022 by Alive Publishing Group, Inc. All rights reserved. Used with permission.
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