How to avoid Alzheimer's and other dementias.

The scary statistics of Alzheimers and associated dementias.

The term 'Alzheimer's Disease', or more usually just 'Alzheimer's', is now used as the umbrella title given to the various forms of dementia that are now afflicting more and more people worldwide.

According to the organisation, Alzheimer's Disease International, in 2010 the global figures for dementia sufferers was 35.6 million with 5.6 million of those being in the U.S and at least 750,000 in the UK. Worryingly this statistic is only set to get worse as things presently stand and in another 40 years the global projection is expected to be well over 115 million.

This increase is directly tied to the fact of an ageing population. People are simply living longer and this fact seems to be proven by the statistic that two thirds of dementia sufferers in the UK alone are women, and it generally accepted that women have a natural tendency to live longer than men.

The financial implications of these figures alone are intimidating given that this vulnerable sector of society already requires an immense amount of help, both financial and practical. Such burgeoning numbers of sufferers mean that this bill can only grow bigger.

So, unless Governments get to grips with the problem soon, by financially supporting the necessary research, not just into drugs to alleviate symptoms, but also into discovering how the various dementias form and finding ways to prevent their development, the final tab to the country, and inevitably the beleaguered tax payer, will become crippling.

Examples of useful exercises.

Early morning tai chi in the park not only clarifies the mind but also improves balance, thus reducing falls in older people.
Early morning tai chi in the park not only clarifies the mind but also improves balance, thus reducing falls in older people. | Source
Walking to work - dawn is not compulsory.
Walking to work - dawn is not compulsory. | Source
Swimming - or just having fun? Playtime is not restricted to children.
Swimming - or just having fun? Playtime is not restricted to children. | Source
Cycling is a low impact exercise though try not to use reading glasses for this.
Cycling is a low impact exercise though try not to use reading glasses for this. | Source
A little light redesigning of the garden stimulates both body and mind.
A little light redesigning of the garden stimulates both body and mind.

Developing an anti-Alzheimer's strategy.

Because there is an acute awareness in the scientific communities about how vital research is into this Sword of Damocles that hangs over so many of us, new information frequently breaks into the news adding yet another tantalising piece of the jigsaw to the Alzheimer's research story.

I have taken a look through the most recent of such news stories to see if I could work out a useful strategy to help me minimise my chances of developing any sort of dementia and one factor stood out above all, exercise.

Exercising to avoid Alzheimer's Disease.

In 2006 one scientific study in the U.S suggested that as little as fifteen minutes three times a week of some sort of aerobic exercise, such as walking, was sufficient to effectively cut the risk of developing dementia by 30 - 40%. A recent UK study amended the figures for exercising to forty minutes three times a week. Either way it is apparent that some sort of aerobic exercise is vastly important for the proper functioning of the human body and now we know it is also vital for brain health.

And this importance appears to increase during later life. It is obvious that such exercise enhances the ability of the heart to circulate blood to the brain and that this, coupled with sensible nutrition, will continue to nourish the brain with the nutrients it needs to function properly for longer. Research has also found that improvements can be made to mental acuity even if such exercise is taken up in the later stages of life.

Unfortunately though many of us realise the need for regular exercise throughout life, there are many factors that can stop us taking action. Lack of time due to work commitments, fatigue or simply laziness all play their part in putting off being active but it is useful to remember that, provided we start taking exercise before Alzheimer's actually appears, aerobic exercise can still be beneficial even in old age, and particularly for memory retention, which is probably one of the earliest signs of impending dementia.

The secret of why exercise is the critical factor in memory retention is that such activity improves the size of the hippocampus in the brain. The increase in oxygen and the circulation of nutrients supplied by aerobic activity feeds the hippocampus and thus not only stops its natural tendency to shrink in old age but can actually help it to increase in size. And the importance of this is that the hippocampus is the seat of memory, so any improvement in its size or operating capabilities can only be a good thing.

The double edged sword of stimulating mental faculties.

Whilst many of us believe that keeping mentally stimulated, with chess, crosswords, brain training methods or even just social interaction, is the key to keeping dementia at bay this should not be regarded as the only way to stave of mental deterioration.

In fact, although it may appear to delay the onset of Alzheimer's, studies appear to show that once dementia has set in the rate of decline is actually accelerated. This is thought to be due to such mental stimuli merely masking the onset of the deterioration so that it appears only when the critical mass of damage to the brain, by lesions and plaques, becomes insurmountable. The descent into incapability then looks to be rapid even though it is likely it has been underlying for some time.

Diet as a factor in the prevention of dementia.

Obviously exercise, whether mental or physical, is only one aspect of a range of preventative measures that may avert the crisis of dementia but it has to be allied to good nutrition. Again, most of us in the developed world have some idea of what proper nutrition is or can easily find out what we should be eating, either by our own research or by asking our own physician who will give out a fact sheet.

Nutrition is a vast subject and beyond the remit of this hub but I would just point out that the second largest group of dementias, after Alzheimer's Disease alone, is due to vascular problems, by which I mean that the blood vessels of the brain become damaged and die and this can often be directly attributable to diet.

Having a high fat diet will usually cause high cholesterol which clogs arteries thus leading to high blood pressure and heart disease which will affect the heart's ability to send the necessary nutrient-rich blood to all the tiny blood vessels in the brain. Having a diet high in sugars can lead to late onset diabetes which can also be a cause of vascular decay.

All of these factors can in turn lead to cerebral strokes, either one large one, which can leave the person permanently and irreversibly damaged, or many small strokes which may hardly seem to affect the person until the accumulated damage builds up enough to simply become too great to surmount.

Your brain is in your hands.

It seems obvious that taking such simple measures to avoid Alzheimer's and its horrific cousins is the only sensible way forward. Not only would we be healthier and have more energy to enjoy our lives whilst we are younger but we would also be safeguarding our brains against one of the most frightening diseases of our time.

If we want to keep on being who we presently are, if we do not want to lose the personality that presently defines us, thenwe must all take responsibility for protecting these precious aspects of ourselves, and we must do it immediately and with commitment.

Iris Murdoch: one of the most brilliant minds of the 20th century succumbed to Alzheimer's.

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Comments 17 comments

Jeannieinabottle profile image

Jeannieinabottle 5 years ago from Baltimore, MD

This is very well written and really informative. Great hub!


Angie Jardine profile image

Angie Jardine 5 years ago from Cornwall, land of the eternally youthful mind ... Author

Thanks, Jeannie! Kind of you comment ...


Angie Jardine profile image

Angie Jardine 5 years ago from Cornwall, land of the eternally youthful mind ... Author

Sorry Jeannie - I meant to say 'kind of you to comment' ... it's been a long day. :)


WebRambles profile image

WebRambles 5 years ago

Great post Angie. I'm scheduling in some exercise for later today (despite early onset hangover).


Angie Jardine profile image

Angie Jardine 5 years ago from Cornwall, land of the eternally youthful mind ... Author

Just been for a walk myself, WebRambles ... now have to go and lie down in a darkened room! The hangover's a nice touch ... we've got to remember to enjoy ourselves as well.

Thanks for the kind comment.


Sharyn's Slant profile image

Sharyn's Slant 5 years ago from Northeast Ohio USA

Very well put together article Angie. Great important information. Thank YOU!


Angie Jardine profile image

Angie Jardine 5 years ago from Cornwall, land of the eternally youthful mind ... Author

Many thanks, Sharyn ... hopefully someone will find it useful.


Amanda Severn profile image

Amanda Severn 5 years ago from UK

Dementia is quite a scary prospect, so any information about how to avoid it is very welcome. Thanks for posting.


Angie Jardine profile image

Angie Jardine 5 years ago from Cornwall, land of the eternally youthful mind ... Author

Hi Amanda - you're welcome. The thing about AD is not so much that it is scary as the fact that the numbers of people with it is increasing so rapidly that is perhaps more worrying. It means that we all stand a greater chance of getting some form of dementia.

Having seen AD at first hand I know just how heartbreaking it can be for a family to watch a much-loved personality disappear before their eyes. I think we should all do our best to prevent, or even just delay, the possibility of getting it, for our families as much as for ourselves.

Many thanks for your comment ...


SaMcNutt profile image

SaMcNutt 5 years ago from Englewood, CO

Very excellent.

My Grandmother is in nursing home with Alzheimers and it is sad to see her there. The facility is excellent, but it is interesting to notice that her decline seems more rapid the less active she is. When she first went into the nursing home she would fold laundry, help feed other patients, and watch over her roommate; but when her roommate died, it seemed my Grandma became less active. The decline since is even more apparent.


Angie Jardine profile image

Angie Jardine 5 years ago from Cornwall, land of the eternally youthful mind ... Author

I'm sorry to hear about your grandmother, Sam. It seems that inactivity does play a great part in this disease. It is a ticking time bomb for a great many of us and we need to support the research as well as taking what precautions we can for our own mental health.

Many thanks for dropping in and commenting.


gmwilliams profile image

gmwilliams 5 years ago from the Greatest City In The World-New York City, New York

To Angie Jardine: What an informative hub! I, too, believe that alzheimers disease can either be delayed and/or avoided with preventive methods. Many people mistakenly believe that when they get to be "a certain age", they are old and cease to do the things they did when they were young.

Many older people became more sedentary and less active. They begin to think old which becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. Just because people are old, does not mean that they can be youthful. People can be youthful in their 70s, 80s, and even in their 90s. Look at the actress Betty White. Ms. White is 89 years old, alert, and still working. There is not a sign that Ms. White will be slowing down soon.

I am of the opinion that people who are more adventurous and unconventional tend not to get alzheimers because they are always trying new things. People who continuously try new things and defy convention will never be senile.


Angie Jardine profile image

Angie Jardine 5 years ago from Cornwall, land of the eternally youthful mind ... Author

Hi gm - thanks for commenting and I think you have a good point there! Hmmm, how to prescribe defying convention ... could be tricky.

And sadly there will always be folks who seem to be born old ...

All the best ...


conradofontanilla profile image

conradofontanilla 4 years ago from Philippines

Alzheimer's is not a natural happening that comes with aging. There are several cases where old people who died were normal in the way they were thinking. The cause is aluminum fibers that lodge on brain cells like fibers of asbestos that lodge on the lungs. We get aluminum from junk food, grain mills, wrappers, utensils and drugs like aspirin buffered with aluminum. This metal can be removed by infusion chelation therapy and anthocyanins found in fruits and vegetables colored red, blue and purple. I have just posted a Hub "Alzheimer's Disease Or Forgetfulness in Old Age: Causes and Control." My mother-in-law has Alzheimer's who thinks she is 35 years old. In fact, she is 84 years old.


Angie Jardine profile image

Angie Jardine 4 years ago from Cornwall, land of the eternally youthful mind ... Author

Many thanks for your input on this hub, conradofontanilla. All comment is valued on such a subject.

The theory of the implication of aluminium in dementias is quite a well-known one and one that I came across when I used to sell chelation therapy products by Neways.

There was also the belief that the aluminium used in antiperspirants and the aluminium salts used in flour improvers in mass produced breads also migrated to the brain and was ineradicable.

I believe this still to be only a theory and not proven to date.

To me it seems much more likely that cholesterol is implicated. We all need cholesterol to function but the over-production of it seems to lead to the ‘plaques' and ‘tangles’ that kill off brain cells.

This would certainly fit in with what my mother experienced as she naturally over-produced cholesterol having familial hypercholesterolaemia.

It would also seem likely that the reason dementias are increasing exponentially in modern times is because most of us eat much more meat and thus have higher cholesterol levels than many people in the past. Given the fact that we all live longer as well the plaques and tangles have longer to build up as well as more of the building blocks from which to produce damage.

My grandmother did not have any form of dementia but she only lived to 73 and for much of her formative life her family had been far too poor to afford meat. This I feel is a telling factor ... we now just need science to provide the link.


georgiebird profile image

georgiebird 3 years ago

This was extremely informative, thank you!


Angie Jardine profile image

Angie Jardine 3 years ago from Cornwall, land of the eternally youthful mind ... Author

Hi georgiebird … many thanks for taking the time to let me know what you thought of this hub.

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