Last Updated: April 19, 2019
Several health ailments have been linked to Alzheimer’s disease. Unfortunately, the disease itself can be a risk factor for other health problems, particularly as it progresses to later stages.
Learn more about six health ailments that accompany Alzheimer’s and ways to decrease your risk of the disease through lifestyle changes.
How Alzheimer’s Can Impact Your Health
In the United States, more than 5.8 million people are currently living with Alzheimer’s. Research has shown that the disease results from multiple factors – rather than a single cause – and common risk factors include advanced age, family history and certain genetic mutations.
Due to the effects that Alzheimer’s has on the body, it also increases an individual’s risks for other health ailments, especially as the disease advances. In the early stages, Alzheimer’s affects not just memory but language as well. So, seniors with Alzheimer’s may not report symptoms of another illness, such as a cold or even an injury.
The Mayo Clinic explains that the cognitive changes, impaired judgment and memory loss of Alzheimer’s make it more difficult to treat other health conditions. For instance, people with Alzheimer’s may not follow a prescribed treatment plan for another illness and they may not notice any other medication’s side effects. So, what might start as a minor health issue may escalate to a severe problem.
6 Health Ailments That Accompany Alzheimer’s
As Alzheimer’s advances to later stages, it impacts a person’s ability to balance as well as control their bladder and bowels.
Our parents and senior loved ones with the disease can then become susceptible to several serious health problems, including:
- Dehydration and malnutrition: The more difficult it becomes to ingest food or water, the more likely a senior with Alzheimer’s may suffer dehydration or malnutrition.
- Depression: Cognitive decline and a lack of social interaction may lead to depression as well as aggressive or violent behavior, delusions, mood swings and personality changes.
- Fall-related injuries: Poor balance can lead to falls and related injuries, including fractures and serious head injuries.
- Immobility: Seniors with late-stage Alzheimer’s are often bedridden, putting them at risk for bed sores, infections and loss of muscle function.
- Pneumonia: The inability to swallow correctly increases a person’s chances of aspirating or inhaling food or liquid into their lungs; aspiration pneumonia is the leading cause of death for people with Alzheimer’s.
- Urinary tract infections: Loss of bladder control may require insertion of a urinary catheter, which increases risks for urinary tract infections.
Ways to Decrease Alzheimer’s-Related Illnesses
Alzheimer’s affects individuals differently. So, not all people will suffer the same disease-related health conditions, although difficulty swallowing and incontinence are common ailments.
Unfortunately, Alzheimer’s cannot be prevented. But, people with a family history of Alzheimer’s or dementia may consider incorporating certain lifestyle habits into their routine, like:
- Eating a low-fat diet, including cold-water fish (tuna, salmon and mackerel) that are rich in omega-3 fatty acids
- Increasing intake of antioxidants by consuming plenty of dark-colored fruits and vegetables
- Maintaining a healthy blood pressure
- Staying mentally and socially active throughout life
Talk to your health care provider about your risks for Alzheimer’s before you make any lifestyle changes, especially if you already take medication for another health issue.