Alzheimer’s is the 6th leading cause of death in the United States. It actually kills more people than breast cancer and prostate cancer combined (1). Instead of putting the focus on preventing Alzheimer’s, the medical community puts emphasis on slowing the progression of the disease after onset with drugs and therapy. However, if you truly understand dementia, then you can change your lifestyle to protect your brain from cognitive decline before it happens.
What is Dementia
According to the Alzheimer’s Association: “Dementia is a general term for a decline in mental ability severe enough to interfere with daily life… Dementia is not a specific disease. It’s an overall term that describes a wide range of symptoms associated with a decline in memory or other thinking skills severe enough to reduce a person’s ability to perform everyday activities.” (2)
Dementia is characterized by the impairment of at least two of these mental functions:
- Communication and language
- Ability to focus and pay attention
- Reasoning and judgment
- Visual perception
Dementia is a progressive illness, meaning that it gets worse as it progresses. It may start with forgetting where you placed your keys and can turn into forgetting your relatives or forgetting to eat.
The disease causes damage to brain cells and interferes with cell communication. This affects thinking, judgment, movement, behavior and feelings.
Risk factors for dementia include (3):
- Head injuries
- Impaired thyroid function
- Low physical activity
- Poor diet and vitamin deficiencies
- Certain medication
- High cholesterol
- High blood pressure
- Alcohol use
- Old age
- Family history of Alzheimer’s disease
If you find yourself in these risk factor categories, taking steps in preventing Alzheimer’s now can improve cognitive function in older age.
Dementia vs. Alzheimer’s
Alzheimer’s is actually the most common type of dementia, accounting for 60-80% of cases.
Other varieties of the disease include (4):
- Vascular dementia
- Dementia with Lewy bodies
- Mixed dementia
- Parkinson’s disease
- Frontotemporal dementia
- Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease
- Normal pressure hydrocephalus
- Huntington’s Disease
- Wernicke-Korsakoff Syndrome
Early signs of Alzheimer’s include having difficulty remembering recent conversations, names or locations, as well as apathy and depression. Later on, symptoms may include impaired communication, poor judgment, disorientation, confusion, behavior changes and difficulty speaking, swallowing and walking.
Alzheimer’s is characterized by beta-amyloid deposits in the brain, twisted strands of the protein tau, as well as nerve cell damage and death.
9 Natural Tricks for Preventing Alzheimer’s Disease
If you are a high risk for dementia or if you have a family history of the disease, there are a few things you can do regularly to lower your risk of developing dementia.
Preventing Alzheimer’s is straightforward, you just have to put in the work!
1. Quit Smoking
As Web MD puts it: “While smoking has long been known to increase the risk of dying from cancer and heart disease, researchers in Finland say they’ve found strong reason to believe that smoking more than two packs of cigarettes daily from age 50 to 60 increases risk of dementia later in life.” (5)
It’s never too late to quit: “former smokers or people who smoked less than half a pack per day did not appear to be at increased risk of developing dementia.”
Researchers theorized that the increased risk is partly due to the fact that smoking contributes to oxidative stress and inflammation. Many other studies have also confirmed the link between smoking and Alzheimer’s (6,7).