Does Alzheimer’s Disease Prevention Exist?
Nearly every adult has given at least some thought to what it might be life facing Alzheimer’s disease at some point in time in the future. This widespread consideration begs the question of whether or not Alzheimer’s disease prevention exists at this time.
Before diving into the question of does Alzheimer’s disease prevention exist, we visit a bit about some basic facts about the condition.
What Is Alzheimer’s Disease?
According to the National Institute on Aging, Alzheimer’s disease is a brain disorder that slowly destroys memory and thinking skills and, eventually, the ability to carry out even the simplest tasks. In most people with the disease symptoms first appear in their mid-60s. Early-onset Alzheimer’s occurs between a person’s 30s and mid-60s and is very rare. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia among older adults.
Do Alzheimer’s Disease Prevention Strategies Exist?
Turning to the question at the heart of this article:
Does Alzheimer’s disease prevention exist at this point in time?
In a word: No.
At this time there are no known ways in which Alzheimer’s disease can be prevented. With that clearly stated, research is apace trying to find ways in which to prevent the onset of Alzheimer’s in the first instance. Research is underway seeking a cure for Alzheimer’s when a person develops the disease. The hope is that in the not too distant future, there will be proven strategies designed to prevent Alzheimer’s in the first instance together with treatments to cure the disease for those afflicted with it.
Lower Risks of Alzheimer’s Disease
Despite a lack of preventative strategies, strong evidence does exist that healthy lifestyle habits are important in reducing the risk of Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia for may individuals. While evidence is strong that these lifestyle factors (to be discussed more fully in a moment) do reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease, more research is needed. More research is necessary to prove that certain lifestyle strategies do reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
At the heart of lifestyle strategies that appear likely to reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s are:
- Not smoking
We consider each of these lifestyle strategies in turn.
According to the Mayo Clinic, the Mediterranean diet is associated with a reduced risk of Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia. The Mediterranean diet is also linked to improved cognition in people who are at risk of heart and other vascular diseases.
The Mediterranean diet is rich in a variety of healthy items that include:
- Whole grains
The Mediterranean diet uses olive oil as the primary cooking fat. This type of diet is also a heart-healthy and reduces the risk of conditions that include:
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol
- Type 2 diabetes
High blood pressure, high cholesterol, and type 3 diabetes are all conditions that are deemed risk factors for dementia.
The Mayo Clinic also reports that there is relatively strong evidence that exercising for between 30 and 60 minutes several times a week is helpful in reducing the risk of Alzheimer’s disease. Specifically, the Mayo Clinic advises:
Exercising several times a week for 30 to 60 minutes may:
- Keep thinking, reasoning and learning skills sharp for healthy individuals
- Improve memory, reasoning, judgment and thinking skills (cognitive function) for people with mild Alzheimer’s disease or mild cognitive impairment
- Delay the start of Alzheimer’s for people at risk of developing the disease or slow the progress of the disease
- Increase the size of the part of the brain that’s associated with memory formation (hippocampus)
Research studies confirm that not smoking does appear to reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
Recent evidence mentioned one study which evaluated the brains of 500 individuals in their 70s, has found that smokers have reduced brain sizes, specifically the cortex, the outer layer of the brain. The cortex is responsible for numerous mental tasks, ranging from visual processing to complex abstract thinking.
The researchers explicitly state that cigarettes are associated with increased brain shrinkage. The good news is, like most damage caused by smoking, it is partially reversed after quitting.
Strategies That Promote Overall Good Brain Health
Despite research being ongoing on reducing the risk of Alzheimer’s disease, there are some strategies that have been shown to promote good brain health more generally. The promotion of good brain health more generally is likely to reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease as well. These strategies include:
- Avoid smoking
- Control vascular risk factors, including high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes
- Eat a balanced diet — such as the Mediterranean diet — that’s rich in vegetables, fruits and lean protein, particularly protein sources containing omega-3 fatty acids
- Be physically and socially active, including engaging in aerobic exercise
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Take care of your mental health
- Use thinking (cognitive) skills, such as memory skills
- Avoid head injury
- Treat hearing loss
- Limit alcohol consumption