Keys to preventing Alzheimer’s disease

Keeping healthy and participating in mentally stimulating activities (such as reading) throughout early life could be the key to preventing Alzheimer’s disease.

Alzheimer’s disease, which damages the brain, resulting in “impaired memory, thinking and behaviour”, is the most common form of dementia and according to Dementia Australia, it affects up to 70% of all people with dementia.

While, according to Dementia Australia the “biggest risk factor for having Alzheimer’s disease, is increasing age”, new research published in the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery and Psychiatry suggests there are at least 10 risk factors that appear to have a significant impact on a person’s likelihood of developing the disease.

The risk factors for developing Alzheimer’s disease include:

  • Cognitive activity;
  • High body mass index late in life;
  • Depression;
  • Diabetes;
  • High blood pressure;
  • Sleep;
  • Physical activity;
  • Coronary Vascular Disease;
  • Head trauma;
  • Frailty;
  • Smoking;
  • Stress.

While more research is needed to establish approaches to help prevent Alzheimer’s disease, addressing these risk factors early on could assist with the prevention of this debilitating disease – one of the leading causes of death.

As part of the study the researchers analysed 395 studies (243 observational prospective studies and 152 randomised controlled trials).

From their analysis they proposed 21 lifestyle factors (including the risk factors listed above) that could be used in practice by clinicians to try to prevent Alzheimer’s disease.

Interestingly, numerous suggestions involve targeting vascular risk factors, such as high blood pressure and cholesterol levels, and lifestyle, strengthening the importance of keeping healthy to prevent Alzheimer’s disease.

Additionally, another key found to help prevent Alzheimer’s disease is education, with researchers suggesting that participating in mentally stimulating activities such as reading helps to prevent the disease.

Avoiding diabetes, stress, depression, head trauma and high blood pressure in midlife are also noted to prevent Alzheimer’s disease.

The authors conclude: “This study provides and advanced and contemporary survey of the evidence, suggesting that more high-quality observational prospective studies and randomised control trials are urgently needed to strengthen the evidence base for uncovering more promising approaches to preventing Alzheimer’s disease.”

To read the research study, visit: jnnp.bmj.com/content/early/2020/06/01/jnnp-2019-321913.