Carol is our administrator at the Center for Primary Healthcare and is a regular contributor to this blog. She is a registered nurse and also holds a masters in public health.
I am not afraid to die. I am afraid of suffering. And I am probably most afraid of losing my mental capacities. I think many of us have that fear. Alzheimer’s disease affects 5.9 million Americans each year. I hope not to be counted in that data. Many of us have watched loved ones suffer with dementia and it can be a long and difficult road. Today I reviewed medical research that was some of the most encouraging and promising I’ve read about dementia in a long time.
It is good to read something encouraging in this field because in recent years, study after study has failed to show any promise in reversing the course of dementia. This prompted the National Institute for Health to undertake an examination of the risk factors associated with increased risk of cognitive decline and/or Alzheimer’s disease. The NIH recognizes that if we cannot treat dementia, then we ought to do our best to prevent it to the extent possible. They identified six things which are potentially modifiable risk factors which may reduce the incidence of Alzheimer’s disease in the American population.
Their final list of likely risk factors include:
- Mid-life hypertension
- Current smoking
- Cognitive & Physical inactivity
For each risk factor, the authors calculated the extent to which Alzheimer’s disease could be reduced within the American population if each risk factor was reduced by a 10% level and also a 25% level. If all the risk factors could be reduced by 25%, close to half a million cases in the United States and three million cases globally could be prevented.
What can you do today, to reduce your risk of Alzheimer’s disease? Here are a few things to start:
- Be tested for diabetes: 86 million Americans are pre-diabetic, and if you are pre-diabetic you may not be aware of it. Pre-diabetes is a reversible condition when treated early and appropriately.
- Reduce your dietary salt intake to 1500 mg/day. Most Americans consume over 3000mg salt per day. A reduction in salt intake can reduce blood pressure significantly.
- Know and control your blood pressure. Excellent non-pharmaceutical options and medications exist to keep blood pressure controlled. See your physician today if your blood pressure is not controlled.
- Stop smoking. Every day you are not smoking reduces your risk of lung cancer, dementia and chronic lung disease. Every day you do not smoke your lungs heal a little bit more! See your physician to develop a personalized smoking cessation plan
- Use your brain and move, move, move. Get off the couch: learn something and do something. Instead of watching that extra hour of television, take a walk or do some recreational reading. Keeping your mind and body sharp are incredibly important, especially as you get older. We would love to hear what new hobbies or habits you’ve adopted on your next visit to the office.