FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

Lowering Your Risk of Alzheimer’s Disease

In 1901, when Dr. Alois Alzheimer started talking to his patient Mrs. Auguste Deter, a 50-year-old patient, he immediately realized that there was something wrong with her. Her responses to his questions were not only repetitive and wrong, but she quickly seemed to forget them. Sadly, she was aware of her helplessness, which caused her considerable distress.

Dr. Alzheimer decided to place her in an isolation room, but later she started showing clear symptoms of dementia: loss of memory, delusions, sleeping problems. She would even scream for hours in the middle of the night. He called her disease the “Disease of Forgetfulness.” We now know that Alzheimer’s is a progressive, degenerative disorder in which the cells in the brain become damaged, causing the symptoms described above.

In 1902, Dr. Alzheimer left the “Irrenschloss” (Castle of the Insane) as the institution was informally known and moved from Frankfurt to Munich. However, he made frequent calls to Frankfurt to learn the health status of his former patient. On April 9, 1906, he was told that Mrs. Auguste Deter had died. He requested that her medical records and brain be immediately sent to him.

When he examined her brain, he found in it senile plaques and tangles that are the hallmark of Alzheimer’s disease. In 1906, he described his findings to the South-West German Society of Alienists, among them the loss of brain mass and the degeneration of critical areas of the brain.

Although Alzheimer’s disease has no cure, certain measures related mainly to lifestyle can delay its onset in many patients. Delaying by a few years the onset of symptoms can greatly reduce the number of people suffering from this disease who may eventually benefit from newer treatments.

Alzheimer’s disease appears generally in people over 65. However, there is a variety called early-onset dementia (the one suffered by Mrs. Auguste Deter) that can occur in people between 30 and 65. Alzheimer’s, together with diabetes, heart disease, and arthritis, are complex diseases that can be caused by a variety of genetic, environmental and lifestyle factors.

Although we cannot control all of them, we can control some risk factors for Alzheimer’s disease. Age and genetic makeup cannot be changed. However, there are other risk factors –mainly associated with our lifestyle- for Alzheimer’s that we can influence. By addressing those factors, about 35 percent of cases of Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia could be delayed or prevented.

Among the actions we can take is to keep our cholesterol, blood sugar level and blood pressure under control, since it has been shown that when they are not between normal levels it increases the risk of Alzheimer’s. Although these strategies have proven to be helpful for many people, they will not necessarily stave off Alzheimer’s, since they depend on each person’s individual genetic makeup and lifestyle.

A growing body of research has proven that changing long-standing lifestyle habits can significantly reduce the risks of developing Alzheimer’s or delay its onset. Swedish and Finnish researchers studied more than a thousand people whose ages were between 60 and 77, and found that those who changed their lifestyle were able to have their dementia diagnosis reduced by two years and also reduce the prevalence of the disease by 25 percent.

One of the most important strategies is to get physically and mentally active. Several studies have shown that physical activity is one of the most effective measures for Alzheimer’s protection. Also important are all the actions tending to exercise our brains. Learning new activities, languages, reading, doing puzzles are useful ways to stimulate our brain.

In a study with older adults, those who received as few as 10 sessions of mental stimulation significantly improved their cognitive functioning in daily activities, and the effects lasted even 10 years later. Closely associated with this activity is maintaining an active social life and network of friends. Several studies have shown that the more socially connected we are the better is our memory and our cognitive skills.

Also among the basic strategies to combat Alzheimer is having a healthy diet with plenty of vegetables, beans, whole grains, fish and olive oil, all elements present in the Mediterranean diet. In addition, we should eliminate smoking, drink moderate amounts of alcohol and, when possible, eat food without preservatives, dyes, antibiotics and hormones, many of which are particularly present in processed foods.

A healthy diet is the best way of having a healthy brain. We should also try to have a regular sleep schedule and eliminate stress in our lives, which can be done through the practice of meditation. Protecting hearing and treating hearing loss is also important since it allows a better social interaction. These measures will not necessarily prevent Alzheimer’s, but they will go a long way to delaying its pernicious effects.

More articles by:

Dr. Cesar Chelala is a co-winner of the 1979 Overseas Press Club of America award for the article “Missing or Disappeared in Argentina: The Desperate Search for Thousands of Abducted Victims.”

August 04, 2020
John Pilger
Another Hiroshima is Coming…Unless We Stop It Now
Dave Lindorff
Unsung Heroes of Los Alamos: Rethinking Manhattan Project Spies and the Cold War
Kenneth Good
Escalating State Repression and Covid-19: Their Impact on the Poor in Kenya
Dean Baker
We Need an Economic Survival Package Not Another Stimulus
David Rosen
Globalization and the End of the American Dream
John Feffer
The Pandemic Reveals a Europe More United Than the United States
Patrick Cockburn
The Government’s Failed Track-and-Trace System is a Disaster for England
Ramzy Baroud
‘Optimism of the Will’: Palestinian Freedom is Possible Now
CounterPunch News Service
Statement From Yale Faculty on Hydroxychloroquine and Its Use in COVID-19
Manuel García, Jr.
Ocean Heat: From the Tropics to the Poles
Sonali Kolhatkar
Why the Idea of Jobless Benefits Scares the Conservative Mind
Greta Anderson
Framing Wolves in New Mexico?
Binoy Kampmark
Pulling Out of Germany: Trump Adjusts the Military Furniture
Shawn Fremstad – Nicole Rodgers
COVID Stimulus Checks Shouldn’t Penalize One-Parent Households
Adam Shah
The 1 Percent’s Attack on Unemployment Benefits is a Sign of Our Broken Democracy
Evaggelos Vallianatos
On the Beauty of Life
B. R. Gowani
Mohammed Rafi: Singer and Human Par Excellence
David Krieger
Eight A-Bomb Haiku
August 03, 2020
Linda Pentz Gunter
The Resistible Rise of Nuclear Gangsters…and Their Downfall
John G. Russell
The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters
Cal Winslow
Their Heroes and Ours: California’s Health Care Crisis
David Barber
Renouncing White Privilege: A Left Critique of Robin DiAngelo’s “White Fragility”
Linda G. Ford
Free Joy Powell! America’s Political Prisoner for Fighting Police Brutality
Prabir Purkayastha
Trump’s Withdrawal From WHO: a Cover-Up for His Abject Failure on COVID-19
Dean Baker
The Plunge in Consumption of Services Leads to a Record 32.9 Percent Drop in GDP
Ramzy Baroud
Human Rights Defenders: Palestinian Eyewitness Testimony of the Execution of Abdul Fattah al-Sharif by Israeli Soldier, Elor Azaria
Karen J. Greenberg
Accountability is Gone in America
Cesar Chelala
A Wrong Message for the Pandemic
Jonah Raskin
Chesa Boudin: Reformer in the San Francisco DA’s Office
George Wuerthner
Forest Plan Failure in the Montana Rockies
Ralph Nader
Speaker Nancy Pelosi Writes to Me!
Laura Flanders
Take on the Tech Mob Now or Perish
CounterPunch News Service
Conservationists Intervene to Oppose New Dam Project Near the Grand Canyon
Weekend Edition
July 31, 2020
Friday - Sunday
Bette Lee
Tear Gas and Thugs at the BLM Protests in Portland
Rob Urie
Russiagate, Nazis, and the CIA
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Demon Seed
T.J. Coles
The Space Wars Have Begun
Andrew Levine
Insurgents and Iconoclasts Needed (But for Now Lay Low)
Paul Street
“Time to Say the F-Word”: Why Now?
Matthew Scully
The Triple Antagonist of the Police, Policing, and Policy
Richard D. Wolff
The Consequences of Inequality Can Be Fatal
Richard C. Gross
Feds Give In, Maybe
Erik Molvar
Inside Trump’s Attack on America’s Environmental Charter
W. T. Whitney
“We Charge Genocide:” Forerunner at UN of Black Lives Matter
Brett Wilkins
The Bologna Massacre, the ‘Strategy of Tension’ and Operation Gladio
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail