September 21, marked World Alzheimer’s Day, part of World Alzheimer’s Month which takes place throughout September. The most common form of dementia, Alzheimer’s disease causes the decline of cognitive function, which can leave sufferers unable to carry out daily tasks and activities.
Although there is no cure, here we round up some of the recent research which has found that making certain lifestyle changes can help reduce your risk of Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia.
Lower your blood pressure – New research presented at this year’s Alzheimer’s Association International Conference (AAIC) found that lowering systolic blood pressure could significantly reduce the risk of mild cognitive impairment (MCI), and a combination of MCI and dementia.
The study of 9,361 older adults with high blood pressure found for the first time ever that the risking of dementia and cognitive decline could be reduced by aggressively lowering high blood pressure with medication and also by making healthy lifestyle changes.
Stay positive – Research published earlier this year led by Yale School of Public Health found that those who have positive beliefs about old age may be less likely to develop dementia. After following 4,765 seniors over a four-year period, researchers found that positive beliefs surrounding old age appeared to have a protective effect on the brain for all participants, including those who carried a variant of the APOE gene which puts them at a higher risk of dementia.
A previous study published in 2015 also found that negative beliefs about growing old significantly reduced the volume of the hippocampus, an area of the brain for memory and an indicator for Alzheimer’s disease.
Cut down on alcohol – A large-scale French study also revealed that chronic heavy drinking is a major risk factor for all types of dementia.
The researchers looked at the medical records of more than one million adults in France diagnosed with dementia, finding that more than 57,000 cases of early-onset dementia were either alcohol-related, or accompanied by an additional diagnosis of alcohol abuse.
Chronic heavy drinking is defined by the World Health Organization (WHO) as more than 60 grams of pure alcohol – six or more standard drinks – a day for men, and more than 40 grams per day for women.
Quit smoking – Researchers from University Medical Center in Utrecht, the Netherlands, have found that those who smoke or have diabetes are more likely to develop calcifications in the hippocampus, a region of the brain crucial to memory, which could put them at a higher risk of developing dementia.
After looking at CT scans from 1,991 seniors, the team found that older age, diabetes and smoking were associated with an increased risk of hippocampal calcifications, with previous research also linking Alzheimer’s disease to the breakdown of the hippocampus.
Reduce symptoms of anxiety – US researchers have discovered that there may be a link between an increase in symptoms of anxiety and a risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.
After studying 270 participants aged between 62 and 90 years old, the researchers found that a higher level of amyloid beta proteins in the brain, thought to be a main cause of the disease, was associated with increasing anxiety symptoms over time, suggesting that worsening anxiety may be an early indicator of Alzheimer’s.
The team say the findings could not only be used to help identify those who have the disease earlier, but also to potentially treat, slow or prevent the disease process early on. – AFP Relaxnews