Is Alzheimer’s Preventable?

Is Alzheimer’s Preventable?

Is Alzheimer’s Preventable?

The prevalence of Alzheimer’s disease is growing fast because the population of elderly people is also growing. The disease is expected to grow from 4.7 million people aged 65 years or older in 2010 to 13.8 million people of the same age group by 2050.[1] This startling figure raises the urgent question: Is there something we can do about it? Fortunately, it looks like there is some hope.

According to a 2014 research study at the University of Cambridge, one in three cases of Alzheimer’s disease is preventable. Researchers have identified some important risk factors which include: diabetes, high blood pressure, being overweight, a lack of exercise, depression, smoking, and low education.[2] Although age is still the biggest risk factor for the disease, these lifestyle factors play a significant role.

The Cambridge researchers suggested that making lifestyle changes can have rather large impacts on brain health. Specifically, if we can reduce the risk of each lifestyle factor by 10%, then we can prevent roughly 9 million cases of Alzheimer’s by 2050. Fortunately, a lot of these factors are linked. So if we are able to make changes in people’s activity levels, then we will also see changes in the prevalence of obesity, high blood pressure, and diabetes.[3]

Reducing these lifestyle factors will be a collective effort on the part of policy makers, educational institutions, and individual members of society. Figuring this out will not be easy. But what individuals can do is to start making healthier choices like eating better, exercising, and quitting smoking. Providing access to education is a difficult matter that will require the effort from the government and educational institutions. Solving these problems will be tough, but knowing what to change is the first step to finding solutions.

[1] Hebert, Liesi E., et al. “Alzheimer disease in the United States (2010 – 2015) estimated using the 2010 census,” Neurology 80 (19) (2013): 1778—1783.

[2] Source: http://www.bbc.com/news/health-28262878

[3] Ibid.

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