As the largest resource of information specific to women's brain health, we are sure you will find what you are looking for, and promise that you will discover new information.
Published on: November 16, 2012
by Elizabeth Nolan Brown for Blisstree:
November is national Alzheimer’s disease awareness month, and there’s good reason for members of Gen X and Gen Y to pay attention. Though not marked by nearly as many ribbons or races, Alzheimer’s is looking a lot like it could be the next cancer where public health is concerned.
Like cancer, Alzheimer’s was once very stigmatized but is now being addressed more openly. Like cancer, it can cause the body to turn on itself. Like cancer, it’s deadly – currently the sixth-leading cause of death in the United States. And, like with cancer, it’s looking as if prevention is a much better bet than an Alzheimer’s cure.
Alzheimer’s isn’t genetic. It isn’t random. And it isn’t a normal part of aging. In other words: We have more control over it than you think.
But you should probably start thinking about it now.
Alzheimer’s is what’s known as a progressive, degenerative disorder, a disease of the central nervous system in which your brain is literally dysfunctioning. Plaques and tangles build up over time, nerve cells die, the brain actually shrinks.
All of this takes quite a while. The things we recognize as “Alzheimer’s disease”–memory loss, confusion, etc.–are actually just the final stage of what doctors now define as a spectrum disorder. People in the first stage show brain damage indicative of Alzheimer’s disease but no symptoms. This damage has taken years, perhaps decades, to accumulate. And it could take years or even decades more to manifest as symptoms.
The path to Alzheimer’s disease is a long one. There are lots of chances to intervene, but it helps to intervene early. By middle age, the brain damage that triggers the disease could already be underway.
There’s a growing awareness of this — and I’m sure we can expect a growing number of confusing news reports and confusing products dedicated to Alzheimer’s prevention, too (like with cancer). But talking about Alzheimer’s “causes” or prevention measures is tricky. The vast majority of Alzheimer’s cases are not “genetic,” as in involving an inherited genetic mutation. Only 1% to 3% of all Alzheimer’s cases are genetic; this is a specific type, known as familial or early-onset Alzheimer’s disease.
While certain gene variants may up your risk, they’re not determinative — having one doesn’t mean you will get Alzheimer’s disease. Alzheimer’s is multifactorial, meaning it can be triggered by many factors — some genetic, some environmental and, fortunately, many related to diet and lifestyle.
You may have even heard lately that Alzheimer’s is “a form of diabetes“.” What that means is just that Alzheimer’s and diabetes share several triggers (sugar, processed food) and several key biological processes (insulin resistance, inflammation). Having type 2 diabetes also increases your chance of developing Alzheimer’s disease — as does depression, obesity, heart disease, high blood pressure and high cholesterol. Most cases of Alzheimer’s won’t strike until after 65, as far as symptoms go. But the presence of any metabolic syndrome conditions in middle age is a major predictor of whether or not you’ll eventually get the disease.
Right now, the biggest known risk factors for Alzheimer’s (aside from age) are metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes, the ApoE4 gene variant, depression, head trauma, obesity, pesticide exposure, poor diet and current smoking.
There’s an ever-growing list of evidence-backed ways to reduce Alzheimer’s risk. Some of the most well-supported are:
Recent findings suggested the serotonin system may be an effective target for prevention and treatment of mild cognitive impairment. “Now that we have more evidence that serotonin is a chemical that appears affected early in...
By the time you start losing your memory, it’s almost too late. That’s because the damage to your brain associated with Alzheimer’s disease (AD) may already have been going on for as long as twenty years....
For decades, the only way to officially diagnose Alzheimer’s disease was by analysing a patient’s brain during a postmortem. More recently, physicians have been able to use positron emission tomography scans of the brains of living people...
The material presented through the Think Tank feature on this website is in no way intended to replace professional medical care or attention by a qualified practitioner. WBHI strongly advises all questioners and viewers using this feature with health problems to consult a qualified physician, especially before starting any treatment. The materials provided on this website cannot and should not be used as a basis for diagnosis or choice of treatment. The materials are not exhaustive and cannot always respect all the most recent research in all areas of medicine.