Dementia

8 Steps To Prevent Alzheimer’s Disease, According to The World’s Largest Review of 400 Alzheimer’s Studies

Posted on 24 July 2020

Of all age- related chronic diseases, Alzheimer’s and other neurodegenerative conditions remain some of the most stubborn to crack. Our ability to actually treat Alzheimer’s has barely advanced since the disease was first categorised over a century ago, with current treatments being symptomatic rather than curative. The only way to protect against Alzheimer’s disease currently is to prevent it from developing.

Thankfully, progress has been made in understanding the risk factors behind Alzheimer’s disease. The largest ever review of Alzheimer’s prevention strategies was recently released, showing that there are at least 10 preventable risk factors that significantly impact a person’s likelihood of developing the disease. According to these findings, here are 8 effective measures you can take to protect yourself.

1. Use Your Head

Preventing Alzheimer's Disease - HelpGuide.org

Evidence for the benefits of remaining cognitively active was highly credible, according to the review. Studies suggest that cognitively stimulating activities such as reading and playing games can reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.

Furthermore, spending more years in formal education is associated with reduced risk of Alzheimer’s disease, suggesting that this may be also protective.

2. Maintain a Healthy Weight

Is more weight protective? Weight gain and high BMI linked to ...

The review found convincing evidence that having a high body mass index (BMI) in later life is associated with greater risk of Alzheimer’s disease. BMI is not a perfect measurement of healthy weight because it doesn’t take muscle mass into account. However, it is safe to assume that exercising and eating healthily to reduce weight is protective against Alzheimer’s disease.

3. Avoid Diabetes

Diabetes mellitus is likely to be linked to the development of Alzheimer’s disease. Diabetes is best prevented by avoiding high sugar diets, remaining physically active, maintaining a healthy weight and not smoking. Many supplements exist that may also reduce blood sugar and protect against diabetes.

4. Avoid Stress

Stress and Heart Health | American Heart Association

While sometimes easier said than done, there exist proven strategies to manage and eliminate stress. Exercise, sleep and relaxation techniques, for example, can all help relieve stress, which should reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease according to research.

5. Stay Mentally Healthy

There is convincing evidence that a history of depression is linked to Alzheimer’s disease. While much harder to prevent and manage than other items on this list, keeping watch for signs of depression and seeking help early may also reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease later in life. Indeed, poor mental health in general is a significant and often forgotten risk factor when it comes to overall life expectancy.

6. Avoid Head Injury

Head trauma appears to be associated with Alzheimer‘s development, so be sure to wear a helmet next time you go cycling. Perhaps consider giving up boxing as well.

7. Maintain Healthy Blood Pressure

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Hypertension in mid-life is associated with Alzheimer’s disease. There are many ways to prevent high blood pressure, including through physical activity, diet, and avoiding smoking.

Studies also seem to identify orthostatic hypotension as a particular risk factor for Alzheimer’s. This is a pooling of the blood in the lower extremities after standing up, causing a drop in blood pressure that can cause light-headedness, weakness or even fainting. This can be caused by medication or dehydration.

8. Avoid Vitamin B Deficiency, and Alcoholism

Chronic alcohol consumption and deficiencies in certain vitamin B subtypes can lead to a condition called hyperhomocysteinemia. Evidence has linked this condition to vascular dementia and Alzheimers’s disease.


These are the most convincing preventable risk factors according to the study, however this list is not exhaustive. The study also named 9 other factors influencing risk that had weaker evidence than those mentioned above: obesity in midlife, weight loss in late life, physical exercise, smoking, sleep, cerebrovascular disease, frailty, atrial fibrillation and vitamin C. In the absence of a cure, we should be looking to implement as many strategies for Alzheimer’s prevention as we can get.


References

Evidence-based prevention of Alzheimer's disease: systematic review and meta-analysis of 243 observational prospective studies and 153 randomised controlled trials: http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/jnnp-2019-321913

Current and future treatments for Alzheimer's disease: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23277790/

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