Dementia Risk Prevention

Updated: Jan 11, 2019

Dementia Risk Prevention

The risk for developing neurodegenerative disorders is influenced by genetics, such as having a form of apolipoprotein E (APOE) gene on chromosome 19 known as APOE ε4. According to the National Institute on Aging, “APOE ε4  increases the risk for Alzheimer’s disease and is also associated with an earlier age of disease onset. A person has zero, one, or two APOE ε4 alleles. Having more APOE ε4 alleles increases the risk of developing Alzheimer’s”. This gene only increases the risk factor for Alzheimer’s but inhereting this gene does not immediately lead to the conclusion that the person will definitely develop Alzheimer’s. There are people with this allele that never develop Alzheimer’s, and there are people with Alzheimer’s who don’t have the allele. One part of Alzheimer’s is the buildup of beta amyloid plaques a clump of metabolic waste in the synapses (spaces between neurons) that obstructs brain functioning. Alzheimer’s is developed once the brain has reached the threshold for the development of beta amyloid plaque. Up until this threshold is met, there are numerous things that can be done to reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer’s.

Sleep: Research has proven that sleep plays a tremendous role is cleaning up the beta-amyloid plaque in the brain. A study conducted by Drs. Nora D. Volkow and Gene-jack Wang of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) used a positron emission tomography (PET) scan to measure beta amyloid plaque build up in the brain. The way a PET scan works is by first injecting the patient with a radioactive tracer. The radioactive tracer will then collect in areas of the body with high chemical activity. In this study, the radioactive tracer 18F-florbetaben was used because it has been proven it can bind to beta amyloid plaque. The results of the study show that beta amyloid increases by up to 5% due to sleep deprivation. So make sure to get plenty of sleep!

Exercise: According to the World Health Organization (WHO), people who are 65 years of age and older are recommended to exercise for 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise, or 75 minutes of aerobic exercise which is  vigorous in intensity weekly. Exercises include dancing, swimming, and walking. Things to do if possible, are taking the stairs instead of elevators and walking for five minutes every hour. The goal is to move more and sit less. Stretching exercises such as yoga will also help tremendously.

Diet: Maintaining a healthy diet is extremely important in reducing the risk of developing dementia. Diet should include low saturated fat, low amounts of salt and sugar, and high fibre. Vegetables, fruits, fish, and quinoa are all nutrient rich foods which are recommended to  be consumed in everyday diet. Avoid alcohol. Research conducted by Dr.Douglas Feinstein used rats to study the effects of alcohol on microglial cells(immune cells in the brain and spinal cord that clean up the beta amyloid plaque in the brain which is one factor of Alzheimer’s). This process of microglial cells cleaning up the beta amyloid plaque in the brain is known as phagocytosis. Microglial cells are found to become active and inflame when exposed to alcohol according to prior research. The researchers exposed the rats to alcohol four 24 hours. The results showed that 16% of genes had been altered which many were involved in phagocytosis, leading to the conclusion  that alcohol intake reduces the ability of microglial cells to consume beta amyloid plaque. When the study conducted another trial by exposing the microglial cells to alcohol levels of binge drinkers, the microglial cells ability to perform phagocytosis decreased by 15% after 1 hour. The bottom line is, that there is a correlation between alcohol and dementia, so alcohol intake should be reduced if not stopped.

Keep Learning: A study conducted by the Alzheimer’s Society had over 7,000 participants who were 50 years or older. The participants went through brain training which tested their reasoning and problem solving skills. The result was that after using the brain training, participants showed improvements in reasoning abilities  and problem solving skills. The more the participants completed the activity, the better their memory and problem solving skills became. The brain training consisted of puzzles such as sudoku and crosswords. Other brain training puzzles include chess, rubick's cube, word search, memory match, go game and online games now exist too such as Luminosity, Braingle, and My Brain Trainer.