January is Alzheimer’s Awareness Month

Written on January 13, 2012 – 7:49 am | by Audrey Miller, allaboutestates.ca

While there is no known cure, researchers (Lancet Neurology:July 19, 2011,Early Online Publication) have identified common risk factors for the development of Alzheimer’s Disease. These risk factors include:
* Low education: “Use it or lose it” is an important credo in Alzheimer’s prevention. Schooling is key because stimulating the brain builds neural networks and the more education a person has the more likely they are to engage in stimulating brain activity. Yet, worldwide, 40 per cent of the population has a primary school education or less. The researchers estimated that low education was associated with 19.1 per cent of Alzheimer’s cases, or 6.4 million cases globally.
* Smoking: Among other things, smoking weakens blood vessels and it affects blood flow to the brain. But almost one-third of adults in the world still smoke. The research estimates 13.9 per cent of Alzheimer’s cases are linked to smoking.
* Physical inactivity: Studies show that people who are physically active have better cognitive abilities and are less likely to develop dementia. Worldwide about one in six people are inactive. The new study found that 12.7 per cent of Alzheimer’s cases were likely due to inactivity.
* Depression: People who suffer from depression have more than double the risk of developing dementia. About one in seven people in the world will suffer from serious depression. Researchers calculated that about 10.6 per cent of Alzheimer’s cases could be traced to depression.
* High blood pressure: About one in nine people in the world have hypertension in middle age. The study estimated that poorly-controlled blood pressure accounts for 5.1 per cent of Alzheimer’s cases.
* Diabetes: Research shows patients with type 2 diabetes have a significantly higher risk of developing Alzheimer’s. Globally, almost seven per cent of adults have diabetes. The research team found it could be responsible for about 2.4 per cent of Alzheimer’s cases.
*Obesity: Women and men who are obese at middle age have an increased risk of dementia later in life. Worldwide about 3.5 per cent of the population is both obese and middle-aged. The study found that obesity is associated with about two per cent of Alzheimer’s cases.
Dr. Barnes said if these risk factors were eliminated entirely it is not realistic to think these risk factors could be eliminated entirely, but even small reductions could have a significant impact.
The researcher estimated that reducing the seven key risk factors by 10 per cent would translate to 1.1 million fewer cases of Alzheimer’s, while a 25 per cent reduction would translate into 3 million fewer cases a year. How many of these risk factors have you checked off?

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