Jul 26, 2016

Can What We Do Throughout Our Lives Reduce the Risk of Dementia?

"Research indicates that there are things we can do throughout our lives to reduce the likelihood of developing dementia."

New research is showing us that there are things we can do throughout our lives to reduce the likelihood of developing dementia.
By Alzheimer's Reading Room

I am bringing up the research studies below because while they pertain to how we might try and reduce the risk of Alzheimer's, it is my belief that these same results could enlighten us on how we might best help our loved one's who are already living with Alzheimer's and related dementia.

My point being that diet, exercise, bright light, socialization, and avoiding lonliness might in fact slow the deterioration in the brain associated with Alzheimer's disease.

This of course is based on my own observation and my own experience with my mom. I took care of her for 8 and a half years, 3,112 days.

The Best Way to Find Solutions to the Problems that Caregivers Face Each Day

So while I am not a scientist, I am a caregiver with lots of experience both with my mom, and working with other caregivers.

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Note: The term cognitive reserve describes the mind's resistance to damage of the brain. The mind's resilience is evaluated behaviorally, whereas the neuropathological damage is evaluated histologically, although damage may be estimated using blood-based markers and imaging methods. Childhood cognition, educational attainment, and adult occupation all contribute to cognitive reserve.

Researchers from the Wisconsin Alzheimer's Disease Research Center and Wisconsin Alzheimer’s Institute today presented new data that suggests that people whose work requires complex thinking and/or activities are better able to withstand the onset of Alzheimer’s disease.

In effect, the study suggests people who have either
  • more complex careers 
  • or busy social lives
may be more resistant to Alzheimer's disease.
  • The researchers concluded that those persons whose careers involved working with other people, rather than with "data or things" were able to better maintain their cognitive functions.
  • There is a growing body of evidence that modifiable risk factors can help build resilience to age-related cognitive decline.
  • According to these new reports, formal education, complex work and newly-identified genes may increase resilience to cognitive decline and dementia, even in people at high risk for the disease because of unhealthful diet or blood vessel problems in the brain.
  • Resilience factors may vary between men and women at high genetic risk of Alzheimer’s.
  • A scientifically tailored cognitive training program led to a reduction in risk of developing cognitive decline or dementia over the 10-year course of a research study.
“These new data add to a growing body of research that suggests more stimulating lifestyles, including more complex work environments with other people, are associated with better cognitive outcomes in later life,” said Maria C. Carrillo, PhD, Alzheimer’s Association chief science officer.
“It is becoming increasingly clear that in addition to searching for pharmacological treatments, we need to address lifestyle factors to better treat and ultimately prevent Alzheimer’s and other dementias.”

Cognitive Reserve May Moderate the Adverse Effects of Poor Diet on Cognition

The role of nutrition as a determinant of successful aging is a growing area of scientific exploration.
  • Although the quality of one’s diet and indicators of cognitive reserve have been associated with cognitive function in previous studies, there is little understanding of how the combination of these factors may influence cognitive function.
This study sought to understand whether indicators of cognitive reserve protected cognitive function against the impact of poor diet.

Matthew Parrott, PhD, of Baycrest Health Sciences, Toronto, Ontario, and colleagues measured adherence to a traditional “Western” dietary pattern (characterized by consumption of
red and processed meats, white bread, potatoes, pre-packaged foods and sweets) in 351 independently living older adults. Alongside each participant’s educational attainment, occupational complexity and social engagement, responses to a questionnaire on food consumption were analyzed and considered.
  • Over a three-year period, the researchers found that a “Western” diet is associated with more cognitive decline in older adults. 
  • Individuals in the study eating a “Western” diet who also had a mentally stimulating lifestyle were protected from cognitive decline.
Our results show the role higher educational attainment, mentally stimulating work and social engagement can play in protecting your brain from cognitive decline, counteracting some negative effects of an unhealthy diet,” said Parrott. “This adds to the growing body of evidence showing how various lifestyle factors may combine to increase or protect against vulnerability to Alzheimer’s disease.”

Research Source: Alzheimer’s Association International Conference (AAIC)

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The Alzheimer’s Association International Conference (AAIC) is the world’s largest gathering of researchers from around the world focused on Alzheimer’s and other dementias. As a part of the Alzheimer’s Association’s research program, AAIC serves as a catalyst for generating new knowledge about dementia and fostering a vital, collegial research community.

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