The Current State of Alzheimer’s: What You Need to Know

Alzheimer’s disease is one of the top killers of humans worldwide, taking away people’s memories, personalities, and ability to function independently. There is currently no cure or effective treatment. However, early detection and lifestyle changes may help slow progression of the disease. This article will examine the current state of Alzheimer’s research, risk factors to be aware of, and action steps you can take now to protect your cognitive health.

Defining Dementia and Alzheimer’s

Dementia is a generalized term referring to impaired ability to remember, think, or make decisions that interferes with daily activities. Alzheimer’s is the most common cause of dementia, accounting for 60-80% of cases.

Alzheimer’s disease impairs cognition and functioning to a greater degree than normal age-related memory loss. While some forgetfulness is expected with aging, Alzheimer’s causes inability to retain new information and access long-term memories. It’s a progressive disease that worsens over time.

Dementia is not a normal part of aging. And unlike other diseases like heart disease or cancer, currently there are no treatments to stop or reverse the progression of Alzheimer’s.

Risk Factors to Know

Age – The biggest risk factor for Alzheimer’s is increased age, with most cases occurring in those 65 and over. However, Alzheimer’s can sometimes occur in people as young as their 40s or 50s, especially if they have genetic risk factors.

Genetics – Having close family members with Alzheimer’s increases your risk. One genetic marker is having two copies of the APOE e4 gene variant, which may interfere with lipid metabolism in the brain.

Metabolic Disease – Insulin resistance, diabetes, obesity, and cardiovascular disease likely contribute to dementia risk through damage to blood vessels in the brain. Alzheimer’s is being researched as a possible “type 3 diabetes” occurring in the brain.

Other Factors – Being African American or Hispanic, having high blood pressure or high cholesterol, smoking, depression, lack of exercise, and low education levels also increase risk to varying degrees.

New Screening and Diagnostic Tools

While there are no definitive diagnostic tests for Alzheimer’s yet, new screening tools and biomarkers can help identify people at high risk or in early stages:

  • Cognitive testing – Simple in-office and online screening tools assess memory, problem solving, attention and more to detect early cognitive decline.
  • APOE gene test – This DNA test identifies if you have one or two copies of the e4 variant that raises Alzheimer’s risk.
  • PET, MRI, and SPECT scans – Advanced imaging techniques show detailed views of brain structure and function to detect early changes.
  • Cerebrospinal fluid analysis – Levels of tau and beta-amyloid proteins in CSF may indicate Alzheimer’s pathology years before symptoms appear.
  • Blood biomarkers – Researchers are developing blood tests to identify proteins and gene expression profiles associated with heightened risk.

Though not diagnostic on their own, combining multiple assessments provides a better picture of overall Alzheimer’s risk and progression.

Take Action Now to Reduce Your Risk

While some risk factors are outside our control, many lifestyle factors influencing Alzheimer’s risk can be modified. Steps to take now include:

  • Quit smoking – Smoking doubles the risk of Alzheimer’s and vascular dementia.
  • Control blood pressure – Hypertension damages blood vessels in the brain. Aim for under 130/80 mm Hg.
  • Prevent or reverse diabetes – Restore insulin sensitivity through diet, exercise, stress reduction, and other lifestyle tactics.
  • Lose excess weight – Obesity and belly fat accelerate cognitive decline. Aim for a lean BMI of 18.5-24.9.
  • Improve cholesterol – Lower LDL under 100 mg/dL and raise HDL over 60 mg/dL through diet and other means.
  • Exercise regularly – Aim for 150 minutes per week of moderate exercise to improve blood flow and neuroplasticity in the brain.
  • Challenge your mind – Learn new skills, read, do puzzles, play strategy games. Use it or lose it.
  • Eat a brain healthy diet – Focus on antioxidants, anti-inflammatory foods, and healthy fats like olive oil and fish. Avoid processed foods and refined carbs.
  • Get quality sleep – Strive for 7-8 hours per night and treat sleep apnea if present. Poor sleep increases Alzheimer’s risk.
  • Manage stress – Chronic stress and cortisol elevation damages the brain over time. Practice daily stress relief.
  • Maintain social connections – Close relationships and intellectual stimulation protect cognitive reserve.

Alzheimer’s disease: early intervention and lifestyle

Though Alzheimer’s disease cannot yet be reliably prevented or cured, early intervention and lifestyle changes offer hope for delaying and managing the condition. Pay attention to risk factors you can control through diet, exercise and other positive health habits. Work closely with your doctor for appropriate screening and detection.

Catching Alzheimer’s in early stages allows more time to plan care and build cognitive resilience. With a proactive approach, you can reduce your chances of dementia and live more vital years ahead.

Workout and Fitness News

Subscribe to our mailing list and get interesting stuff and updates to your email inbox.

Thank you for subscribing.

Something went wrong.