There is no denying Alzheimer’s disease is devastating, debilitating the minds of those affected and the hearts of close family members and friends. Aside from the sheer upset of an Alzheimer’s diagnosis, surfaced frustration is likely linked to an unknown cure, as the disease has no survivors and is starting to strike people even in the early ages of 30, 40, and 50. In absence of a known cure, healthcare experts and researchers stress the need for Alzheimer’s prevention.
The Need for Preventing Alzheimer’s Disease
Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia, an umbrella term to describe a group of conditions that impairs at least two brain functions. Alzheimer’s is a chronic and progressive condition in which destroyed brain cells causes memory changes, erratic behaviors, and loss of body functions, ultimately impeding on their own personal health and even jeopardizing the lives of others. All-in-all, the repercussions of advancing Alzheimer’s disease include malnutrition, dehydration, additional medical concerns and conditions, physical injuries and accidents, financial troubles, and eventually death.
With such destructive consequences lying ahead of those affected, it is considerably tragic a cure is not established at this time. Only adding onto the devastation, Alzheimer’s disease rates are projected to rise. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, current statistics pinpoint more than five million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s, and this number could rise as high as 16 million by 2050!
Alzheimer’s disease is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States, with deaths from Alzheimer’s disease increasing by 89 percent since 2000. Not only is Alzheimer’s disease affecting the health and wellbeing to the diagnosed individual, but bargaining the health of their respective caregiver and increasing healthcare costs. Compared to 19 of caregivers for older people without dementia, 35 percent of caregivers for people with Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia report declined personal health. And while Alzheimer’s disease is costing the nation $259 billion in 2017, costs are expected to rise as high as $1.1 trillion!
What We Can Do?
Though there is still more to be known regarding the cause of memory loss and dementia, it goes without saying we must focus on the prevention of Alzheimer’s disease. Experts do agree the development is a result of complex interactions among age, genes, the environment, lifestyle choices, and concurring medical conditions. But until more specific and solidified data is established, one of the most valuable ways to reduce and prevent Alzheimer’s disease is by bringing and promoting awareness of the condition. Modifiable risk factors of Alzheimer’s also prompt the need to focus on what we can control, including the following:
• Implement Healthy Lifestyle Choices
The consequences of a poor diet, sedentary behaviors, lack of sleep, and high stress can compromise brain health. Individuals are encouraged to consume a heart-healthy diet filled with whole grains, fresh produce, lean and plant-based proteins, and healthy fat sources; exercise at least 150 minutes each week; sleep the recommended seven to nine hours on a regular basis; and manage stress through healthy coping techniques, including yoga and meditation. Individuals are also recommended to stay socially connected and intellectually stimulated, as maintaining strong social connections and keeping the brain active may lower the risk of cognitive decline and Alzheimer’s disease.
• Schedule Health Screenings
Unmanaged blood pressure, cholesterol, gluten sensitivities, and other health conditions are associated to increased dementia risk, warranting individuals to stay proactive with their health. Schedule and adhere to routine health screenings so healthcare experts can assist and establish an individualized care plan for you. Doctors are also in a unique position to teach on prevention, rather than prescribing a quick fix when the disease has already emerged.
• Participate in Prevention Studies
One of the most advantageous ways to learn about prevention is through data collection by researchers, essentially insinuating a “let us help you” approach. By participating in prevention studies, you can help increase the knowledge of researchers and drive evidence towards preventative measures and an effective cure. Find more information and guidance regarding study participation through TrialMatch®, the Alzheimer’s Association’s free trial matching service.
• Consider the Caregiver
Extending the advocacy for caregivers is also critical, as elevated stress can start impeding on their own physical and mental health, which may increase their risk and cause Alzheimer’s disease to come full circle. If you are a caregiver yourself, do not hesitate to seek out support, ask for assistance, and cope appropriately. And if you know a caregiver, consider their personal health by offering ongoing guidance and resources.