7. Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias
When you think of Alzheimer’s disease or dementia, you might think of a loss of memory, but you might not think of a loss of life. Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive disease that destroys memory and interrupts normal mental functions. These include thinking, reasoning, and typical behavior.
Alzheimer’s disease is the most common type of dementia — 60 to 80 percent of dementia cases are in fact Alzheimer’s. The disease starts off by causing mild memory problems, difficulty recalling information, and slips in recollection. Over time, however, the disease progresses and you may not have memory of large periods of time. A 2014 study found that the number of deaths in the United States due to Alzheimer’s may be higher than reported.
Risk factors and prevention
Risk factors for Alzheimer’s disease include:
- being older than 65
- a family history of the disease
- inheriting genes for the disease from your parents
- existing mild cognitive impairment
- Down syndrome
- unhealthy lifestyle
- being female
- previous head trauma
- being shut off from a community or having poor engagement with other people for extended periods of time
There’s not currently a way to prevent Alzheimer’s disease. Researches aren’t clear why some people develop it and others don’t. As they work to understand this, they’re also working to find preventive techniques.
One thing that may be helpful in reducing your risk of the disease is a heart-healthy diet. A diet that’s high in fruits and vegetables, low in saturated fats from meat and dairy, and high in sources of good fats like nuts, olive oil, and lean fish may help you reduce your risk of more than just heart disease — they may protect your brain from Alzheimer’s disease, too.