According to information from The Alzheimer’s Association (alz.org), more than 5 million Americans suffer from Alzheimer’s Disease or some other related form of dementia. This number is expected to rise to 13.8 million by the year 2050, as the Baby Boomer generation reaches age 65 and beyond.
Here are some known risk factors and preventative steps to take to lower the risk of cognitive impairment:
Cardiovascular Health. These risk factors include smoking, obesity, cholesterol, and diabetes. Almost every study done on this topic produces the same evidence, in that a life-long pattern of healthy eating and physical exercise greatly reduces the risk of Alzheimer’s. According to a report by The Alzheimer’s Association, “Growing evidence suggests that the health of the brain is closely linked to the overall health of the heart and blood vessels. The brain is nourished by one of the body’s richest networks of blood vessels. A healthy heart helps ensure that enough blood is pumped through these blood vessels, and healthy blood vessels help ensure that the brain is supplied with the oxygen- and nutrient-rich blood it needs to function normally.” So in this case, a healthy heart = a healthy brain.
Remain Engaged. Studies show that social and cognitive engagement throughout life may reduce the risk of dementia. Some practical ways to do this are having regular meetings with friends and family, volunteering and interacting with others, reading a book, or solving word or number puzzles. The biggest detriment to keeping the mind actively engaged is the TV. Studies show that adults aged 55+ watch more TV than any other age group but enjoy it less. Exercise for your brain is just as important as exercise for your body.
Traumatic Brain Injury. While this may not apply to the majority of the population, doing what you can to avoid a TBI is very important. Only recently have studies connected traumatic brain injuries with a higher risk of alzheimer’s. According to information from The Alzheimer’s Association, “Individuals can decrease their risk of TBI by wearing seatbelts while traveling, avoiding repeated blows to the head in contact sports, wearing helmets during activities such as bicycling, and ensuring one’s living environment is well lit and free of tripping hazards.”
If you think a loved one may be suffering from cognitive decline or any other medical issues, read this article on How and When to Intervene in someone’s life.
If you are already in the midst of caring for someone with cognitive impairment and you need help or advice, read this article on Choosing a Caregiving Agency.
To see the studies referenced here and learn more about Alzheimer’s Disease visit alz.org.
These statements have not been evaluated by a healthcare professional and are for informational purposes only. If you think someone you love may be struggling with cognitive impairment, take them to a physician to be evaluated.