Over 5 million American’s suffer from Alzheimer’s disease, and this number is only increasing with each year. Even though Alzheimer’s disease is mostly dependent on genetics, knowing some of the other factors will help you avoid developing the disease. Knowing what to look out for when it comes to developing Alzheimer’s disease will help you live a full and happy life well into old age. Look out for these 11 predictors of Alzheimer’s.
1. Not Getting Enough Sleep
As people try to juggle the everyday stressors of life, they run a risk of becoming sleep deprived. Sleep deprivation is dangerous by itself as it can lead to poor motor skills and poor judgment, but you may be surprised to learn that it can also be a cause of Alzheimer’s. Poor sleeping patterns can cause chronic stress to build up in the body and brain. Without an adequate amount of sleep, stress can prevent fluid from freely moving around the brain to transmit signals between molecules.
2. Consuming a Western Diet
American citizens are more likely to be diagnosed with Alzheimer’s than many other countries, and the Western diet may have something to do with that. The Western diet is comprised of foods with a high amount of meat, fat content and sugar. When the country of Japan transitioned from their vegetable-heavy diet to the Western diet, their Alzheimer’s rate rose from 1% to 7% in just twenty years. Countries with a lower rate of meat consumption boast a much lower rate of Alzheimer’s development.
3. Alcohol Use
The amount a person drinks consistently may play a role in how likely it is to develop Alzheimer’s. Repeated binge drinking irreversibly damages brain cells, damaged blood vessels, increases the risk of heart attack, and can lead to “alcohol-related brain damage” (ARBD). ARBD has been linked to the development of Korsakoff’s syndrome and Alcoholic dementia, in addition to early development of Alzheimer’s disease. Heavy drinking can also cause many people to fall or get into unnecessary fights which can lead to the person receiving trauma to the head. As noted earlier, brain trauma is another predictor of Alzheimer’s.
4. Loneliness and Isolation
Staying in touch with the rest of the world is one way to prevent being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. Studies show that people who describe themselves as having feelings of loneliness are 1.63 times more likely to get Alzheimer’s than people who stay connected. It is important to note that not having a partner and living by yourself is not the same as feeling lonely. It is the perception of loneliness that can lead to an increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease. Keeping a well-kept social network can help prevent this as well as increase overall enjoyment of life during later years.
5. Low EducationRelated: How to Reduce Alzheimer’s Risk
Lower levels of formal education can be correlated with Alzheimer’s disease. Studies have shown that higher education was associated with lower age-related issues in older adults. Higher education may provide resilience against the deterioration of the brain because the individual is more likely to participate in life experiences that engage the brain. However, if you are not college educated don’t fret; keeping your brain occupied with intellectually stimulating activities such as crosswords or Sudoku can be a good way of keeping your mind active.
6. Lack of Mental Stimulation
A mind that is not being stimulated by new or challenging information is at risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. Low levels of education have been cited as having a correlation with Alzheimer’s development. Higher amounts of mental stimulation will strengthen brain cells and the connections between them. An active brain slows the decline of cognitive function and allows for mental sharpness to continue into old age. Mental workouts such as crossword puzzles, reading books, and completing new tasks can aid in the pursuit of an active brain.
7. Having Diabetes
There is growing evidence that having Type 2 diabetes can lead to becoming diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. Alzheimer’s is theorized to be a form of diabetes called “Type 3 Diabetes”. High blood sugar can cause inflammation to occur in the brain which increases the risk of Alzheimer’s developing. An increased amount of insulin can create a very harmful buildup of amyloid and other proteins inside the brain. Lastly, diabetes adds to the risk of having heart disease and strokes during later years. These diseases can ultimately damage blood vessels in the brain and cause Alzheimer’s to develop.Related: 7 Most Common Symptoms of Diabetes
8. Heart Issues
Although it may not seem like an obvious connection, studies have shown that trouble with the cardiovascular system in mid-life can be linked to having Alzheimer’s later in life. Problems with blood pressure and having more than one heart attack can put you at risk of developing Dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. Therefore, it is essential to monitor your blood pressure, watch your diet, and decrease your stress levels if you want to prevent Alzheimer’s. Just remember; healthy heart = healthy brain.
9. Constantly Getting Lost
One of the earliest signs of Alzheimer’s disease is whether or not a person is continuing to be a functional navigator. If it is increasingly challenging to create cognitive maps of new or familiar locations, it is likely that Alzheimer’s is developing inside the brain. The hippocampus is the part of the brain responsible for mentally visualizing new surroundings and has been noted as being an early target for Alzheimer’s. Atrophy of the hippocampus can prevent people from learning new locations and lead to learning being inhibited as the disease continues to develop.
10. Slowed Walking Speed
If you are starting to notice a change in the way you walk, you may be at risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease it seems that walking ability and cognitive ability are linked to one another. Studies show that an impaired walking ability can predict whether or not a person is likely to develop the disease. The ability to walk and talk simultaneously, as well as the speed of one’s walk, is negatively affected by cognitive deterioration. People with an altered gait in their later years are also more likely to develop Alzheimer’s than a person with a “normal” gait.Related: Benefits of Walking at Least 30 Minutes Per Day
11. To Many Head Injuries
Head trauma is responsible for many ailments including seizures, nagging headaches, and random mood swings. With this in mind, it makes sense that the Alzheimer’s Association would cite brain trauma as a cause of Alzheimer’s and Dementia. People with a history of brain trauma have a chance of being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s that is between 2.3 to 4.5 times greater than a person with no such history. Though it is unclear if one traumatic event can trigger the disease, it is still recommended that people take the necessary steps to prevent injury.