More than 8 million Americans currently suffer from Alzheimer’s disease, and that number is likely to rise to 16 million by 2060.
Alzheimer’s accounts for 60% to 80% of dementia cases. Vascular dementia–linked to strokes and problems with blood flow to the brain–accounts for 10%. Lewy body dementia, frontotemporal dementia, and mixed dementia make up the remainder. Neurological changes, vascular disease, and inflammation are the main sources that cause dementia symptoms. However, research is showing a whole list of underlying triggers that may lead to cognitive decline. Here are some examples:
1. Bad sleep habits and sitting a lot are a dangerous duo. Lack of physical activity and poor sleep are linked to the build-up of Alzheimer-related proteins in the brain.
2. Diabetes seems to have a direct link to dementia through elevated blood sugar that changes activity in the brain. These elevated blood sugars can impair working memory in ways that are similar to what happens to neurons in Alzheimer’s. One study found that people with Type 2 diabetes had an 88% higher risk of dementia than those without the disease.
3. Your liver’s health affects your brain’s health. Some proteins are produced in the liver and travel to the brain, which could cause health concerns.
4. Gum disease may be a trigger for dementia. It is suggested that mouth bacteria when gums are inflamed damage blood vessels that provide blood flow to the brain.
LIFESTYLE TIPS TO PREVENT DEMENTIA
So what can you do to reduce your risk? Here are four of the latest tips:
1. Research shows that if you have diabetes, keeping five to seven of the risk factors for dementia (smoking, elevated A1c levels, blood pressure, BMI, lack of physical activity, and your diet) within guideline recommended ranges will reduce your risk for dementia to the same level as for people without diabetes.
2. Vitamin B12, along with other Vitamin Bs, may also have a role in protecting you from Alzheimer’s. Have your blood level tested, eat foods that supply vitamin B12 (sardines, trout, tuna, and fortified cereals), and take supplements to boost your level.
3. A healthy liver protects your brain. Your diet should contain little saturated fat, reduced red or processed meats or added sugars, and lots of healthy fats found in olive oil and salmon.
4. Weight loss. Obesity changes fat in your arteries into inflammatory problems that causes blockages, a contributor to dementia.
If you or any family members are suffering cognitive changes due to a dementia diagnosis, please call our office for a consultation to learn more about preventing and treating dementia.
Robert B. Sica, PhD, ABN
Board certified, Neuropsychology