Since I wrote my earlier blog on Alzheimer's, my mother-in-law's mental status had changed so abruptly that we needed to hospitalize her to rule out a stroke or low heart rate. While she was surprisingly hypertensive on admission and her heart rate low enough to validate a pacemaker, her failing memory has yet to improve since she's been discharged home again. Because she is 90-years-old, her failing memory is assumed to be due to some form of dementia at this point.
Seeing my mother-in-law go through this ordeal is a real reminder that we all want to do our best to prevent dementia. Like any health condition of aging, including cardiovascular problems, being educated about the risk factors for developing vascular dementia is important. Only then can you individualize your own approach to address as many modifiable risk factors as possible.
What Are the Alzheimer's Risk Factors?
Our age and genetics are factors that are not within your control. In fact, most experts are in agreement that most cases of Alzheimer's disease are the result of what I call a “perfect storm," which is usually the case with most health conditions. This means that there are complex interactions between our genetic structure and our environment that can tip the scale and jeopardize our precious brains.
For Alzheimer’s disease, one risk factor you can influence is head trauma. According to the Alzheimer's Association, there may be a strong link between serious head injuries—especially those involving a loss of consciousness—and future risk for Alzheimer’s disease. Protect your brain by buckling seatbelts, wearing a helmet during athletic endeavors, and "fall-proofing" your home and work environments the same way you "baby-proof" for your little ones.
Other Alzheimer's Prevention Tips Include:
- Staying socially connected
- Learning a new skill
- Avoiding tobacco and alcohol
- Keeping your weight at optimum level for your height
- Exercising both your body and mind
When it comes to the other risk factors on the list, like high blood pressure and diabetes, work with your physician to keep them well controlled with diet, exercise, targeted nutritional supplements, and medication if need be. Plus, there's good news for those of you that are currently supporting overall healthy aging by reducing your risk for heart disease. You've already been lowering your risk for Alzheimer’s disease.
Now it's your turn: How do you stay mentally sharp?