Here is a small excerpt from my upcoming book “Alzheimer’s disease – How to minimise your risk”, due for release later this year. This book is dedicated to shining the light on Alzheimer’s disease prevention strategies.
Your risk of living with Alzheimer’s disease increases every 5 years between the ages of 60 – 90. Currently, 15% of people aged over 70 have some form of dementia. However many people live into their 90’s and beyond with no signs of Alzheimer’s disease or other diseases with dementia symptoms.
In fact, the University of California did a study of 1600 people aged 90 and over, and found that most of them had no signs of any form of dementia. Isn’t it remarkable that a brain that has been functioning for nearly one hundred years can be healthy and show little to no signs of atrophy? It is useful to note that some mild cognitive decline is a normal part of ageing for some people, but this is not a precursor to developing Alzheimer’s disease.
While it is true that age can be one of the biggest risk factors for developing Alzheimer’s disease, the good news is that Alzheimer’s disease is not a normal part of ageing, and while no one can guarantee you will never be diagnosed, there are certainly many lifestyle changes you can make to delay the onset, or lessen your risk of developing AD. The latest studies show that between 35-50% of Alzheimer’s disease is related to lifestyle factors, so in theory the rate of Alzheimer’s disease could be cut in half if people addressed these modifiable interventions.
Lifestyle and environmental factors are not linked to our genetics, therefore we can change and improve these at any given time we choose to do so. Of course, changing what we eat, how we think, where we live and what we do is not always straightforward or easy. But if implementing these changes means that you greatly reduce your risk of living with Alzheimer’s disease then isn’t it worth the effort?
Lifestyle and environmental factors include:
- Physical exercise
- Mental stimulation
- Emotional/spiritual well-being
- Community and social connectedness
- Other modifiable behaviours
- Existing chronic diseases such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease
- Where we live
- Bacteria, viruses, and other factors
What does a health-full life look like? Well, you may be surprised to learn that a lifestyle that keeps your heart healthy also keeps your brain healthy. This means no smoking, keeping alcohol to no more than one drink per day and low to no salt. You should also aim to include at least 75 minutes of aerobic exercise per week, and eat a predominantly whole-food plant-based diet.
Dr Caldwell B. Esselstyn, Jr, an esteemed medical doctor, states that “clogged arteries serving the brain and clogged arteries serving the heart are part and parcel of the same disease”. Dr Esselstyn continues by stating that the cause is the same – fat and cholesterol damaging the lining of the blood vessels, and the cure is the same – healthy eating and avoiding anything that damages vascular health.
Health-full living is also linked to social connectedness. You may have regular contact with family, friends, work colleagues, or you may be part of a group, social club, or other organisation that meets regularly. Getting in contact with others is important to our emotional, spiritual and cognitive well-being.
Keeping our brain alert is just as important as moving well, eating well and living well. Reading, studying, trying new skills or new activities, learning a language – all of these are important to keep the connections in our brain functioning well.
 Raber, J., Huang, Y., Ashford, J.W. ApoE genotype accounts for the vast majority of AD risk and AD pathology. Neurobiol Aging, 25 (2004), pp. 641-650
 Doidge, N. 2015. The Brain’s Way of Healing. Remarkable Discoveries and Recoveries from the Frontiers of Neuroplasticity. pp. 98. Scribe Publications Victoria.
 Alzheimer’s Disease International. https://www.alz.co.uk/research/WorldAlzheimerReport2018.pdf
 Esselstyn C.B. 2008. Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease. The Revolutionary, Scientifically Proven, Nutrition-Based Cure. p97. Penguin Group Inc. New York.