If you are worried about your brain health and whether or not you will develop Alzheimer’s Disease you are not alone. This is a worry that plagues thousands of people every day.
“My uncle was sharp as a tack right up until the very end. And he lived to be 96 years old. His wife was not so fortunate. Alzheimer’s Disease snagged her in her late 70’s and she was gone by her mid eighty’s.”
So, is it all Just “Luck of the Draw”?
Do some people simply have better genes than others? And is there anything we can do to change the hand we have been dealt.
These are all very valid questions. Furthermore, they are ones that scientists have been struggling with for years. Research is ongoing by the National Institute on Aging (NIA) at the National Institute of Health (NIH). The research indicates that genes do play an important role.
Some Diseases are Caused by a Genetic Mutation.
Early-onset Alzheimer’s Disease is one of those diseases. The NIH defines a genetic mutation as : A permanent change in a gene that can be passed on to children. The rare, early-onset familial form of Alzheimer’s disease is associated with mutations in genes on chromosomes 21, 14, and 1.
A Genetic Risk Factor May Increase Your Chance of Inheriting the Disease.
This is not set in stone, however. And if you have a genetic risk factor there may be actions and lifestyle changes that will help to reduce your risk.
There are Two Types Of Alzheimer’s Disease
Early-onset Alzheimer’s typically occurs between the ages of 30 – 65. But this type only occurs in about 10 % of the population. Early-onset familial Alzheimer’s disease or FAD may be caused by an inherited change in one of three genes.
Late-Onset Alzheimer’s Occurs After Age 65. This is the Most Common Form of Alzheimer’s.
At this time there is no specific gene identified, that directly causes the late-onset form of the disease. However, one genetic risk factor—having one form of the apolipoprotein E (APOE) gene on chromosome 19—does increase a person’s risk.
More studies are now showing that lifestyle factors play a huge role. So this is why some people with risk factors get the disease and some do not. Genes seem to be able to be turned on or turned off.
What You Can Control
You may not have control over the cards you were dealt. But you do have control over your environment. Diet, exercise, use of tobacco and other chemicals and management of your stress may help you to avoid turning on these genes. Or they could at least delay when they get turned on. Would you like to have five or maybe 10 more good years before this disease strikes?
9 lifestyle factors identified by the NIH that can reduce your chance of developing late-onset Alzheimer’s Disease and improve your brain health.
- low levels of education
- midlife hearing loss
- physical inactivity
- high blood pressure (hypertension)
- type 2 diabetes
- social isolation
Let’s start with the first one. Low levels Of Education
Those with higher education tend to have a somewhat lower risk that someone with only a high school diploma or less. The great news is you do not ever have to stop learning. In fact, Lone Star College offers a huge assortment of classes, workshops and other programs for seniors. The Academy for Lifelong Learning allows seniors to participate at very low cost. What a fun way to improve your brain health.
Midlife Hearing Loss
This relationship between dementia and hearing loss is rather new. Often people with hearing loss become socially isolated. Likewise, they do not go out often or visit friends because they cannot hear and understand what is going on. Getting hearing checked often is important. And wearing hearing aids is equally important.
Exercise and Physical Activity.
Remember, what is good for the heart is also good for the brain. Staying physically active can help your mind to stay sharp.
High Blood Pressure, Type 2 Diabetes, and Obesity
These are all risk factors that are completely under your control. Furthermore, blood pressure may need to be controlled by medication. The right diet and exercise can get your weight into a healthy range and eliminate diabetes.
There are a number of programs that can help you to kick this habit. Find the one that will work for you. After all, isn’t your brain health worth it?
Depression increases your chance of developing dementia. And this may be one of the reasons so many family caregivers end up developing the disease also. Talk to a professional and get the help you need. The Alzheimer’s Association has a number of caregiver support groups you can join.
Lack of Social Contact
This is so important. After all, we are social beings. We are designed to connect with one another. Becoming isolated due to physical limitations or transportation issues can put someone at a higher risk of developing dementia.
Consider joining the YMCA. And in Houston, there are lots of locations to choose from. Furthermore, they have specially designed programs for seniors. Besides the exercise benefit, you will also meet some new friends. And if driving is an issue call Lyft or Uber. But chances are once you get involved and make a few friends someone will offer to pick you up and bring you back home.
The key is to do what you can to increase your odds of staying healthy and mentally sharp as you age. If you have a family member who has Alzheimer’s Disease and you are concerned this could happen to you also, make lifestyle changes today. You and your family will thank you. If you can push back the clock an extra 5 or 10 years who knows what advances in a cure may happen.