Those who have Alzheimer’s disease experience memory loss and confusion, and gradually get worse over time. It is a mentally debilitating disease that can be very emotionally taxing for the patient, as well as friends and family. Unlike normal memory loss that may occur with age, Alzheimer’s makes it difficult for patients to live healthy, active lives. Much research has been done into what causes the disease, as well as how to prevent and treat it.
Hundreds of thousands of concussions occur annually due to sports injuries, car accidents, and other mishaps. While most people heal quickly, for some, a head trauma of any kind can lead to chronic inflammation and permanently damaged brain tissue. In these circumstances, head injuries can lead to an increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease. This development is because the cells in the brain are too busy dealing with inflammation issues to protect the brain from a buildup of the proteins that cause the disease. To protect yourself from injury, it is important to wear proper protective gear in situations where head trauma may occur, and seek immediate medical attention if a head injury does occur.
People with Down’s Syndrome are at an increased risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease, according to scientists. Down’s Syndrome is a condition that results in developmental and health issues, due to an extra 21st chromosome. Researchers believe that this additional chromosome also can lead to dementia and the development of Alzheimer’s as the patient ages. Typically, people with Down’s Syndrome will begin to show the symptoms and signs of Alzheimer’s at a much earlier age than the average patient. For those with Down’s Syndrome, dementia and memory loss are one of the most common complications of getting older.
Mild Cognitive Impairment
Alzheimer’s disease is more likely in people who experience Mild Cognitive Impairment earlier in life. Mild Cognitive Impairment is often diagnosed in people as they age, and may develop Alzheimer’s later on. Patients with MCI may have difficulty remembering recent conversations or appointments or might feel incapable of making good complex decisions. These issues typically manifest in ways that you or those around you can see, such as missing a deadline or asking the same question twice in a short amount of time but do not prevent you from living a normal life. Over time, many cases of MCI evolve into Alzheimer’s disease.
Poor Heart Health
Those with poor cardiovascular health are also at risk to develop Alzheimer’s later in life. One reason for this is that many of the same factors that impact whether or not your heart is healthy also have an effect on your mental health. More importantly, though, for the brain to properly function, it needs adequate support from your heart. If you have cardiovascular issues or your heart isn’t healthy, your brain may not get the blood flow and oxygen it needs to function properly. To reduce this risk, you should make sure you live a lifestyle that promotes good cardiovascular health and sees a doctor to treat any heart-related health issues.
Lack of Education or Mental Stimulation
One way to keep your brain functioning properly is to keep it working hard. Researchers have linked low education levels to Alzheimer’s disease. This link doesn’t mean you need a college degree to avoid Alzheimer’s, but it’s a good reason to practice continuing education skills throughout your life. As you get older, consider finding enjoyable ways to stimulate your mind mentally. Many colleges offer free or discounted courses for seniors, and working part-time after retirement may provide similar benefits. Even playing educational games or reading can keep your brain active, which will help to decrease your risk of developing Alzheimer’s.
Lack of Social Stimulation
Similarly, researchers have found that social stimulation is just as important as mental stimulation. Interacting with friends and families has been proven to have many health benefits, and one of those benefits is a reduced risk of Alzheimer’s disease. By conversing and spending time with people you care about, you keep your mind active. If you don’t have many friends or your family lives too far away to spend time with regularly, you can still seek social stimulation. Consider visiting a community or senior center, joining a club or non-profit group, or even getting a dog to care for.
Poor Lifestyle Choices
Everyone knows smoking is bad for your lungs and heart, but did you know it can also increase your risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease? In addition to smoking, many other lifestyle factors can impact your mental health later in life. These include eating poorly and choosing not to exercise, which can lead to obesity, as well as excessive alcohol consumption. These factors exacerbate many conditions, and Alzheimer’s is no exception, so your best bet is to develop a plan for a healthy lifestyle and stick to it. Quitting smoking and losing weight will both help decrease your risk level.
Consistent Lack of Sleep
For those with a busy life, it may not be possible to get eight hours of sleep per night or even six or seven hours. However, it’s important that you try to get a good night’s sleep as often as you can. Failing to get enough rest can speed up the development of Alzheimer’s disease. In addition to changes in your brain chemistry, lack of sleep can contribute to causing some of the other risk factors – such as cardiovascular disease and obesity. To preserve your health, consider reducing your daytime responsibilities and giving yourself more time to sleep at night.
Genetics and Family History
One of the most common causes of Alzheimer’s disease is genetics. For example, researchers believe that early-onset Alzheimer’s is usually an inherited condition. However, even if a parent or sibling has the disease, it does not mean you will develop it yourself. If it does run in your family, you should take care to limit avoidable risk factors like smoking, obesity, or lack of mental and social stimulation. Preventative measures will limit your chances of exacerbating or speeding up the development of Alzheimer’s, even if you are genetically predisposed to it. If you have concerns about developing Alzheimer’s due to your family history, talk to your doctor.
The overwhelming majority of Alzheimer’s disease cases occur in older patients. While about a small percentage of cases involve younger patients, most people with Alzheimer’s are over the age of 65. In addition to the effects of age on the brain, other health problems and increased isolation can contribute to a higher risk of developing the disease in old age. At times, it can seem difficult to distinguish between age-related changes in memory and brain function and the onset of Alzheimer’s. However, Alzheimer’s is a much more severe condition that goes beyond temporary lapses in memory and requires additional care.