Many scientists believe that Alzheimer’s involves progressive cell failure of the brain. However, they’re not 100% sure as to why the cells are failing. Similar to other chronic conditions, dementia is the result of multiple factors and the materialization of the disease is directly linked to age and genetics. These are the main risk factors triggering Alzheimer’s disease.
Contrary to popular belief, dementia is not part of the aging process. Not all seniors in their 70s and 80s develop this condition. Another important risk factor that might lead to it is family history. Studies in this domain have proven that people with a child, sibling, or parent who has or had Alzheimer’s is a risk of developing the disease later on in life. When this chronic condition already runs in the family and there are also environmental factors playing a role, then there are chances for the condition to materialize.
Alzheimer’s & Genetics
Research is pointing out that deterministic genes trigger disease in family members. Rare genes that might trigger Alzheimer’s account for less than 5%, and the early onset of the disease form in relatives that are in their 40s, mid-50s. However scientists point out that cases of “familiar Alzheimer’s” are extremely rare. In their quest to finding a viable treatment, they uncovered important clues that might help them understand the condition a lot better. Beta-amyloid – a major constituent of plaques – is the prime suspect in brain cell decline and death. A potential strategy is shaping up, and the target is beta-amyloid. Scientists are developing a drug that could slow down the progression of the disease tremendously.
There are two more studies currently under development assessed. The first one is led by DIAN, the Dominantly Inherited Alzheimer’s Network and it is funded by NIA, the National Institute of Aging. It includes 10 research centers spread across the UK, Australia and the US. The second study is led by the Alzheimer’s Prevention Initiative and it is centered on a specific family with a history spread in countries like South America, Antioquia and Colombia. The family has 5,000 members and it is the largest in the world with a gene that triggers Alzheimer’s.
As opposite to genetics and age, certain lifestyle and health factors linked to dementia risk can be kept under control. Scientists in this area are exploring several prevention tactics to find out whether things like “brain games”, diet and exercise can prevent or at the very least delay the onset of Alzheimer’s as well as other cognitive declining illnesses associated with age.
Thus far, studies haven’t proven that lifestyle factors or diet changes can slow down or prevent the materialization of the disease. However, clinical trials are still being performed in the hopes of finding a link. Promising research is in progress. NIA is currently supporting over 30 related clinical trials, including many others that are attempting to find viable solutions to delay or prevent age-related cognitive decline. Several observational studies in this field have pointed out that factors such as diabetes, physical activity and blood pressure control might also be connected to the risks of developing dementia in aging patients.
Can physical activity and exercise keep the brain healthy?
Even though physical activity and exercise keep the brain active, this doesn’t necessarily mean that working out will prevent a patient from developing dementia. And yet, studies emphasize that routines that are good for the brain, heart and body keep us healthier, more functional, and more alert. Physical activity may play an important role in diminishing dementia risks, but that’s not a proven fact.
Several animal studies performed on the matter underline that exercise boosts the connection number of nerve cells. Furthermore, studies have proven than exercise might also increase nerve growth factor level inside the brain, in an area that’s vital to learning and memory. Exercise stimulates the ability of the brain to preserve and make network connections that are fundamental to healthy cognition.
In a study that lasted one year, 65 senior people had to exercise daily. They did non-aerobic exercises that implied toning and stretching or mild walking for 40 minutes. At the end of the study, scientists emphasized that the group who walked showed better connectivity in the area of the brain linked to recalling the past, day dreaming and envisioning the future. The group additionally managed to organize and plan tasks with a lot more ease.
Can proper dieting prevent dementia?
A great number of studies highlight that including certain types of food into one’s diet may help boost brain activity and health. For example, a regimen that incorporates lots of vegetables, fruits, and whole grains, and that is low in added sugar and fat may reduce the materialization of various chronic diseases, such as heart disease and type-2 diabetes. Further research is being performed in the hopes of finding out whether or not a healthy diet rich in leafy green and fruits can be associated with reducing cognitive decline rates.
As certain food types might ward off cognitive decline, others like refined carbs and saturated fats can cause real problems. A specific study that focused on DHA, an omega-3 fatty acid (salmon), managed to shed some light and somehow connect proper dieting to Alzheimer’s. The research focused on specially bred mice with features of dementia. According to researchers, DHA might help reduce beta-amyloid plaques, as well as abnormal protein deposits inside the brain that are a clear sign of Alzheimer’s onset. In spite of the fact that the DHA trial didn’t show any impact on people struggling with dementia, it’s still possible for supplements to have a positive effect provided that the treatment is started before the symptoms appear.
Bottom line is, even though there’s no cure for dementia there are promising studies showing that there’s still hope. In the meantime, before choosing to put your aging parent into a nursing home, you might want to check what Forest Healthcare has to offer.