Several of the risk factors associated with Alzheimer's disease can be prevented -

© Gerd Altmann / Pixabay

  • A recent study identified the ten main factors that increase the risk of developing Alzheimer's disease, according to a study published by our partner The Conversation.

  • Many of these risk factors can be managed or changed through lifestyle changes, including better diet and more exercise.

  • The review for this study was written by Mark Dallas, Associate Professor of Cellular Neuroscience at the University of Reading (England).

Although there are still no truly effective drugs, researchers continue to develop a better understanding of Alzheimer's disease.

A recent study, based on a review of 396 research studies, identifies the top ten factors that increase the risk of developing the disease.

1. The level of education

A low level of education is associated with an increased risk of developing Alzheimer's disease.

The more educated you are, the more developed your brain and the heavier it is, according to research.

So when you lose a third of your brain weight due to dementia, a heavier brain can make you more resilient.

2. Cognitive activities

Keeping our brains active can also help fight dementia.

Activities such as crosswords or puzzles stimulate your brain and can strengthen the connectivity between brain cells.

This connectivity is broken when there is dementia.

We must therefore continue to keep our brains active, even in old age.

Other studies agree that stimulating our brains actually lowers our risk of developing dementia.

3. Hypertension

A healthy heart has long been linked to a healthy brain.

A recent study indicates that high blood pressure in middle age increases the risk of Alzheimer's.

A higher incidence of heart disease in people with high blood pressure affects the blood and nutrient supply to the brain.

Thus, reduced blood supply to the brain is linked to Alzheimer's disease.

4. Orthostatic hypotension

This study also demonstrated the reverse of hypertension, or orthostatic hypotension, as a risk factor.

The blood pressure of an affected person is unusually low when they stand up after sitting or lying down.

As the body is unable to maintain sufficient blood supply to the brain during changes in posture, this can have a long-term debilitating influence on brain activity, due to the lack of oxygen to the brain, which increases the risk of dementia.

5. Diabetes

Studies have also found that diabetes is associated with a higher incidence of Alzheimer's disease.

Because this disease makes our body unable to properly regulate insulin, there is a change in the way our brain cells communicate and in the way our memory functions - two functions that are disrupted by Alzheimer's disease.

Insulin is essential because it regulates the metabolism of carbohydrates, fats and proteins by helping blood glucose to be absorbed by the liver, fats and muscles.

Alzheimer's disease appears to interfere with the brain's ability to respond to insulin.

6. Body mass index

A high body mass index (BMI) in those under 65 is linked to an increased risk of dementia.

The study suggests that a body mass index between 18.5 and 24.9 for those under 65 - in other words, a healthy weight - may reduce the risk of dementia.

However, being underweight in middle age and later in life can increase the risk of dementia.

Being overweight and underweight both carry increased risk © Seksan.TH / Shutterstock (via The Conversation)

It is believed that a mix of genetic factors, cardiovascular disease and inflammation contribute to this association between BMI and dementia.

7. Head trauma

Head injuries suffered in the past are a risk factor.

There is clear evidence that such trauma, such as a concussion, can contribute to the development of dementia.

This link was first observed in 1928.

However, it is not certain whether the single or repetitive head injury is the contributing factor.

It is clear that the brain damage caused by head trauma is similar to that of dementia.

This increases the risk of developing such dementia later in life.

8. Hyperhomocysteinemia

High levels of the chemical homocysteine ​​are a risk factor.

It is a natural amino acid that is involved in the production of our body's defense mechanisms, including antioxidants that prevent cell damage.

Elevated homocysteine ​​levels in the blood of people with dementia were first reported in 1998. Since then, studies have shown that lowering homocysteine ​​levels may protect against dementia.

Animal studies suggest that high levels of homocysteine ​​damage brain cells by interfering with their energy production.

Increased consumption of folate and vitamin B12 can reduce homocysteine ​​levels and thus, the risk of dementia.

9. Depression

People with Alzheimer's disease often suffer from depression, although it is not known whether depression is the root cause of Alzheimer's disease or if it is just a symptom of it.

However, there is plenty of evidence to confirm that depression is indeed a risk factor, as this latest study showed.

Research has even indicated a link between the number of depressive episodes - especially ten years before the onset of dementia - and a higher risk.

Depression increases the levels of harmful chemicals in our brains.

An imbalance of these chemicals can lead to the loss of brain cells, which increases your chances of developing Alzheimer's.

10. Stress

Finally, stress has been identified as a risk factor.

In the long run, stress targets our body's immune cells, which play an important role in fighting dementia.

In particular, it has been shown that the hormone cortisol contributes to stress and can have an impact on memory.

Aiming to reduce stress and cortisol levels can therefore reduce the chances of developing dementia.

Our “Alzheimer” file

This study, which compiles decades of research, offers a complex picture of how we can fight the onset of Alzheimer's disease.

It clearly indicates the ten factors that scientists need to focus on in the future.

While the results may not seem encouraging, they are on the contrary, as many of these risk factors can be managed or changed through lifestyle changes, including better diet and more exercise.

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This review was written by Mark Dallas, Associate Professor of Cellular Neuroscience at the University of Reading (England).

The original article was published on The Conversation website.

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