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Facing Alzheimer's with Knowledge Before Diagnosis

Alissa Sauer
By Alissa SauerOctober 12, 2015

With no cure for Alzheimer’s in sight, many of us are afraid to learn of our risk for the terminal disease. However, as more research becomes available, some are choosing to face Alzheimer’s by making positive lifestyle changes that researchers believe promote brain health.

Learn more about these factors and the courageous people leading the fight against Alzheimer’s on a personal level.

A Greater Understanding of Alzheimer’s Risks

As Alzheimer’s research efforts continue to shed more light on lifestyle choices that can increase the risk of Alzheimer’s, more people are learning of their risk earlier. While many may decide not to learn of their risk because the disease currently does not have a cure, others are choosing to face their fear and make positive lifestyle changes to potentially change their future.

While aging itself is the biggest risk for Alzheimer’s, researchers believe there are poor lifestyle choices that can increase the risk of the disease. It is important to know that there is no conclusive lifestyle factor that can increase the risk of the disease, but some research has shown risk factors linked to vascular health can play a role including:

  • Sedentary lifestyle
  • Smoking
  • High blood pressure
  • High blood cholesterol
  • Type II Diabetes
  • Poor nutrition

Still, others are learning of their Alzheimer’s risk through genetic testing. Those with the ApoE4 gene are 10% more likely to develop Alzheimer’s when over the age of 65 and are 50% more likely when over the age of 85.

Genetic testing can also reveal a predisposition to early onset Alzheimer’s, with the disease striking as early as 30 years old. Early onset Alzheimer’s is the rarest form of the disease, affecting about 5% of people living with Alzheimer’s.

Facing Alzheimer’s by Making Positive Lifestyle Changes

As research progresses and more knowledge is available to more people, those who find themselves at a high risk can choose to make healthy lifestyle choices that may reduce their risk, even with a genetic disposition to the disease.

A study done at the University of California Mary S. Easton Center for Alzheimer’s Disease Research and the Buck Institute for Research on Aging used a 36 point comprehensive program to successfully reverse symptoms of memory loss. Lifestyle changes in the study included vitamin supplements, brain games, exercise, improved sleep and dietary supplements.

Registered nurse Jamie Tyrone discovered that she carries a gene that raises her risk of developing Alzheimer’s to 91, starting at the age of 65. After sinking into a deep depression, she decided to fight back. She began exercising, eating brain boosting foods and antioxidants, following the recommendations of the study mentioned above and even started her own nonprofit, Beating Alzheimer’s By Embracing Science (BABES).

Charles Goldman is a 71-year-old semi-retired attorney who saw his mother suffer from Alzheimer’s and is on guard for memory loss. By reading books, following research studies, doing crosswords, eating right and exercising, he, like Tyrone, is fighting back against the risk of Alzheimer’s.

There are many others like Tyrone and Goldman doing what they can to prevent dementia.

Program administrator for population studies for Alzheimer’s and dementia at the National Institute on Aging, Dallas Anderson admits that we should be cautiously optimistic in claiming the power of lifestyle choices in Alzheimer’s prevention.

“Whatever steps they take — whether it’s diet or exercise or staying socially engaged or cognitively active — those steps will not guarantee that the individual will be spared. I think the best that we can hope for right now is to postpone the condition. It’s not preventing — it’s postponing… That’s not shabby. If somebody can get an extra five years of independent living, that’s big.”

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Alissa Sauer

Alissa Sauer

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