Worldwide, Alzheimer’s disease is the leading cause of dementia. By 2040, it could affect more than 2 million people over 65. But researchers have identified a few risk factors that may allow us to limit the occurrence of the disease in the future.
Memory loss, difficulty in planning, difficulty in performing familiar tasks, confusion in time and space, problems with expression, mood changes. The symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease are disabling and numerous. So are the risk factors. Researchers call it a multifactorial disease, because it involves a complex combination of several factors.
Unfortunately, it is not possible to act on some of these factors. There is genetics, for example. But this concerns very rare cases of Alzheimer’s disease. There is above all age — less than 2% of the population under 65 is affected — and gender — 60% of sufferers are women.
But it is still possible to act on other well identified factors.
Cardiovascular risk factors
The researchers note that the higher the cardiovascular risk in a person, the higher the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. Thus, high blood pressure can lead to the development of cognitive problems. To keep it at a normal level, it is advisable to watch one’s weight, salt consumption, alcohol consumption and physical activity.
Tobacco and nicotine are also the enemies of our brain. Quitting smoking can delay the onset of Alzheimer’s disease and other cognitive disorders.
Studies also show that high levels of LDL cholesterol and low levels of HDL cholesterol in the blood increase the risk of developing the disease. To maintain a healthy cholesterol level, there is nothing like a balanced diet and regular physical activity. This will also help avoid being overweight, which is also considered a risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease.
Finally, type 2 diabetes, which generally appears after the age of 45, is also a risk factor. It is a sign of a change in the way brain cells communicate with each other. To maintain a stable blood sugar level, it is advisable to be monitored by a doctor. Insulin intake should help. But it should be noted that Alzheimer’s disease, on the other hand, seems to disrupt our body’s ability to react to insulin.
Education and cognitive activities
Over the years, studies have shown that the more developed and engaged a brain is, the more brain connections are encouraged and the less likely it is that some form of dementia will develop.
A low level of education can therefore be seen as a risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease. And intellectual stimulation seems to help mitigate the impact of the disease. It is as if a more developed brain could make itself more resistant to the attacks of dementia.
Past trauma to the skull also seems to have an impact on the development of dementia later in life. In particular, those that are accompanied by loss of consciousness for more than 5 minutes could weaken the brain.
Sometimes considered a symptom of Alzheimer’s disease, it seems that depression is actually a risk factor. Depressive episodes increase the levels of harmful chemicals in our brain. This can lead to a higher risk of developing the disease.
As with depression, between Alzheimer’s disease and sleep disorders, we sometimes wonder who is the chicken or the egg… What we do know is that the brain takes advantage of our sleep to eliminate the waste that pollutes it. And in particular the beta amyloid proteins that we see accumulating in patients with Alzheimer’s disease. But the link has yet to be established more precisely.
Chronic stress, as we now know, is not good for our overall health. Cortisol, a stress hormone, has a particular impact on memory. And stress also has an impact on our cardiovascular health and tends to weaken the immune defenses that help us fight dementia.