Memory loss, cognitive decline, and an inability to do daily tasks and work independently are the hallmarks of dementia. There are various dementia subtypes. Although Alzheimer’s is the most frequent type of dementia, vascular disease is a major contributing factor for up to one-third of cases, including some cases of Alzheimer’s disease.
Recognize the Risk Factors for Dementia According to the Cause
On the surface of the brain, sticky protein deposits are linked to Alzheimer’s disease. Atherosclerosis plaque accumulation and artery narrowing, which reduce blood supply to the brain, cause vascular dementia. It’s crucial to consider strategies for treating or preventing both forms of dementia because it’s now known that many people genuinely have a combination of the two.
The Value of Good Vascular Health
Researchers are currently working to identify the underlying causes of Alzheimer’s and develop effective treatment strategies.
Vascular causes of dementia, however, is another matter. Dementia may be exacerbated by or caused by vascular disease. High blood pressure and diseased blood arteries can result in “silent strokes,” which are small pockets of bleeding or obstructed blood flow to the brain that may not even show any symptoms.
However, repeated exposure to these tiny regions of brain damage can lead to difficulties with memory, balance, locomotion, and other brain processes. It’s unclear whether or how vascular illness contributes to the development of Alzheimer’s dementia, but researchers are looking at this specifically.
Making lifestyle adjustments is part of improving the health of your blood vessels. Your brain should start protecting your vascular health early because brain alterations can occur decades before dementia symptoms manifest.
An added benefit is that better blood vessel health lowers your risk of heart attack, stroke, and other dangerous illnesses.
According to estimates, one in three dementia cases can be avoided. The fundamental causes of Alzheimer’s disease cannot be stopped or reversed at this time, but you can take action to reduce your risk of vascular disease and hypertension.
Alzheimer’s Disease and Associated Dementias and Modifiable Risk Factors
The lifestyle choices and behaviors that can lower or raise an individual’s risk of contracting an illness are known as modifiable risk factors. Modifiable risk variables, for instance, have the potential to either increase or decrease your risk of Alzheimer’s disease and associated dementias (ADRD), as well as to halt the disease’s progression. Most ADRD risk factors that can be changed are associated with chronic illnesses like cardiovascular disease. These include obesity, diabetes, depression, smoking, hearing loss, binge drinking, hypertension, and insufficient exercise. It is beneficial to your general physical and mental health to maintain a healthy lifestyle and manage associated chronic disorders. These actions can also help lower your risk of dementia or halt its advancement.
Modifiable Risk Factors in Adults Over 45 for Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Dementias
In a recent study, the CDC looked at the prevalence of eight risk factors among persons 45 years of age and older: obesity, diabetes, depression, smoking, hearing loss, binge drinking, and high blood pressure. Almost half did not reach the recommended aerobic physical activity or had high blood pressure.
Compared to adults without cognitive decline (13%), those with cognitive decline were more likely to report at least 4 variables (34%).
Compared to 13.1% of individuals without cognitive decline, 34% of adults who reported cognitive decline—worsening confusion or memory loss in the preceding year—had at least four risk factors.
Adults with at least four risk factors were more likely to report cognitive deterioration than those without any risk factors—25% of them did so.
Compared to other racial and ethnic groups, African American, Hispanic, and American Indian or Alaska Native populations had a higher prevalence of several modifiable risk factors.
Compared to non-Hispanic White Americans, older African Americans had twice the incidence and prevalence of ADRD as well as higher burdens of chronic diseases including hypertension.
What makes dementia more likely?
Growing older is the biggest known risk factor for dementia, with most instances affecting those 65 years of age and beyond.
Individuals who have dementia-afflicted parents or siblings are at an increased risk of developing dementia themselves.
Racial or ethnic
Compared to white people, older African Americans have a twofold higher risk of dementia. Compared to White people, Hispanics have a 1.5-fold higher risk of dementia.
Inadequate heart health
If left untreated, smoking, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol all raise the risk of dementia.
Traumatic brain damage
Dementia risk may rise as a result of head injuries, particularly if they are severe or recurrent.
How is a dementia diagnosis made?
To determine whether there is a reason for concern, a healthcare professional can administer tests on cognitive skills such as problem-solving, attention, memory, and others. An underlying cause can be found with the aid of a physical examination, blood tests, and brain scans such as an MRI or CT.
Ways to Enhance the Health of Your Brain
These risk factors notwithstanding, there is positive scientific news: Approximately 40% of ADRD cases could be avoided or postponed. There are opportunities to establish and maintain good lifestyle behaviors that may lower your risk of ADRD or decrease its advancement, as the disease takes years to develop. It is never too late to form new routines and break old ones.
This list of healthy lifestyle practices includes things you should attempt to minimize or avoid and things you can do.
Actions You Can Take:
- Become Active and Maintain a Healthy Weight: Eating a balanced diet and engaging in regular physical activity will help you reach and maintain a healthy weight.
- Control Blood Sugar: If you have diabetes, find out how to control your blood sugar.
- Control and Prevent High Blood Pressure: In the US, tens of millions of adults suffer from excessive blood pressure, and many of them do not regulate it.
- Prevent and Correct Hearing Loss: To treat and manage hearing loss, consult a hearing care specialist.
- Seek Help: Being depressed is more than just experiencing “the blues” or the feelings we have when a loved one passes away. It’s a medical condition with potential for treatment.
Items to Try to Limit or Stay Away from:
- Binge Drinking: Use moderation when you do drink. Find out how drinking affects your health.
- Smoking: Giving up lowers your chance of lung disease, cancer, heart disease, and other smoking-related disorders while also improving your overall health.
What is understood regarding lowering your danger?
Significant advancements in the field of risk reduction science are imminent. For instance, there is mounting evidence that individuals can reduce their risk of dementia by implementing healthy lifestyle practices, such as managing their blood pressure and engaging in frequent exercise. An increasing body of research suggests that healthy habits, which have been linked to a lower risk of heart disease, diabetes, and cancer, may also lower the chance of perceived cognitive decline.
5 Actionable Steps to Prevent Dementia
Although thinking difficulties and forgetfulness are most common in adults 60 years of age or older, medical studies are finding that the disease begins to alter brain structure far earlier.
In a 2017 paper published in JAMA Neurology, the scientists examined data from 15,744 individuals nationwide to examine the association of high blood pressure, smoking, and diabetes with the risk of dementia over 25 years.
Middle-aged adults with high blood pressure had a 40% higher chance of developing dementia during the following 25 years. Additionally, that risk increases by 80% in the event of diabetes. That’s nearly an equal increased risk of being genetically susceptible to Alzheimer’s disease.
Your risk of dementia may vary in your 40s if you make healthy decisions and modify your lifestyle. Consult your physician about preventative measures for artery narrowing and plaque accumulation.
- Control hypertension, or elevated blood pressure.
- Take care of diabetes.
- Give up smoking.
- Reach and keep a healthy weight.
- Increase your level of physical activity.
It’s never too early to take care of your vascular health and possibly stave off dementia.
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