The answer is, yes, and no. The cause of Alzheimer’s really is not known. Genetics are part of the equation, and over that, you have no control. If it runs in the family you might have an increased risk. On the other hand, just because you do, does not mean you will necessarily be a sufferer too. Getting older increases the risk, and again, you can’t do much about that! There are some things you can do however which might possibly reduce your risk of developing Alzheimer’s and dementia. These measures mainly relate to your lifestyle, though something as simple and pleasurable as drinking coffee seems likely to help amongst an array of measures you might take. It must be said, though, that you can do everything right and you could still be unlucky enough to develop the disease for no particular reason at all.
Various recent studies have concluded that drinking plenty of coffee may help reduce the risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s. Some have gone further, saying that drinking coffee may actually help in managing it, falling into the category of an actual treatment to use in combatting some of the effects of dementia. One USA study late last year concluded that drinking five cups of coffee a day could actually to some extent reverse some of the memory problems seen in Alzheimer’s disease. The Florida research also suggested caffeine hampered the production of the protein plaques which are the hallmark of the disease. Previous research has also suggested a protective effect from caffeine. As caffeine is nowadays considered safe, and not the no-no it was once thought to be, this is interesting news indeed. Caffeine easily enters the brain and appears to directly affect the disease process. Much previous research had already pointed to the likelihood that caffeine could delay Alzheimer’s disease and even protect against vascular dementia. This research goes further in suggesting that coffee may actually reverse some element of memory impairment.
Caffeine may specifically help older women ward off mental decline, other recent research in France suggests. French researchers compared women aged 65 and older who drank more than three cups of coffee per day with those who drank one cup or less per day. Those who drank more caffeine showed less decline in memory tests over a four year period.
Meantime, while you brew up a delicious cuppa for the sake of your health, best you get exercising too! An overly large waistline in your forties could almost triple the threat of dementia in old age, according to recent US research. Obesity is a known risk factor for Alzheimer’s, but scientists found even those of normal weight were more at risk if they had a large waist.
Research linking obesity to dementia does not reveal precisely why being overweight can affect your ageing brain, but many specialists believe that associated problems such as high blood pressure and diabetes may contribute. The latest study suggests that while the standard measure of obesity – body mass index – can help predict those at risk, the actual lifestyles which produce large bellies, may have a closer relationship with likely long-term causes of dementia. Being overweight in midlife and beyond is definitely considered a risk factors for disease generally, including dementia. Those who are obese at 60 are twice as likely to develop dementia by the time they are 75. The new study highlights that having a large abdomen, regardless of weight, also significantly increases your risk. A large stomach is of course associated with high blood pressure, cholesterol and diabetes – all major risk factors for dementia!
Exercise does not even have to be strenuous or time consuming for you to benefit and protect your all round health. It just needs to be regular. Aerobic exercise improves oxygen consumption which benefits brain function and reduces brain cell loss. Even 30 minutes daily to get the body moving and the heart pumping will help. Better diet, more exercise and lower blood pressure all help reduce our risk of dementia. Smoking is another very obvious and well known contributor to risk for this disease, and generally speaking, the same factors which increase a person’s risk of heart disease, increase the risk of dementia.
Socialise more too! Research shows that that those regularly engaged in social interaction maintain their brain vitality better and a recent study reported that leisure activities that combine physical, mental and social activity are the most likely to prevent dementia. In one recent study of 800 men and women aged 75 and older, those who were more physically active, more mentally active or more socially engaged had a lower risk for developing dementia. Those who combined all three did even better. Other research found that sports, cultural activities, emotional support and close personal relationships together appear to protect against dementia.