Although Age is the Greatest Risk Factor for Alzheimer’s disease, there is Strong Evidence that Obesity also plays a role
A few weeks ago we celebrated grandparents everywhere, at the same time acknowledging some of the challenges seniors face as they age. Among the more serious diseases for people over the age of 65 is Alzheimer’s disease, which affects more than six million seniors. This number continues to rise. And although age is the greatest risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease, there is strong evidence that obesity also plays a role.
What is Alzheimer’s?
Alzheimer’s is a type of dementia which results in a decline in a loss of memory and other thinking skills. A brain that is affected by Alzheimer’s has proteins called plaques and tangles and these damage and kill nerve cells. However, only some people with these markers develop the disease while others do not. Similarly, some people live a full life with no memory decline at all, only to find out upon their death that their brain is full of plaques and tangles. It’s difficult to address a problem whose origins are unknown.
What Causes the Disease?
Age is the greatest risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease but obesity also is a factor and contributes to nearly a third of dementia cases. This is because obesity is associated with brain structure and there also is a connection between the microorganisms in our digestive system and how the brain functions. And while our bodies are designed to protect us, there are still so many unknown elements to Alzheimer’s that neither our bodies nor the medical community have been able to defeat this terrible disease.
What are the Effects of Alzheimer’s on Caregivers?
Alzheimer’s is a disease that affects family members and friends almost as much as the patient. It can be both frustrating and heartbreaking to care for someone we love as their mind fails them. There are also very practical implications that must be addressed as some patients may forget to eat and lose weight, or forget they have already eaten and insist on additional meals, contributing to weight gain. Patients can become agitated, confused or aggressive or ask the same things over and over. While this is certainly understandable, it can be a real challenge for caretakers, especially family members who already manage a busy schedule for themselves and others. This means caretakers not only must witness the mental decline, but they also struggle with guilt at being impatient or angry.
How can you Reduce the Risk of Alzheimer’s?
Although there is no cure for Alzheimer’s, you can help reduce the risk and possibly even slow the progression of the disease through lifestyle change. Because weight is a risk factor and there are links between obesity and Alzheimer’s, weight loss is important and it is most beneficial to lose it at a younger age. This offers even greater benefits because weight loss also helps reduce or eliminate diabetes and high blood pressure, which also are risks for Alzheimer’s.
Every day offers a new opportunity for gratitude and what better way than to take steps to ensuring a healthier and happier future for you and your family!
About the Author: Dr. Andrea Pampaloni has over 20 years of communication experience across corporate, academic, nonprofit and government sectors. She provides research and writing services on a range of business issues and industry-specific topics to prepare white papers, articles, proposals, presentations, technical content, and speaking points, as well as marketing-communications content such as blogs, website content, newsletters, news releases and award submissions. Dr. Pampaloni’s research findings have been presented at national and international conferences and published in peer-reviewed journals, and she is a ghostwriter for three books, a Forbes article, and several corporate blogs.