In 2011, baby boomers officially reached the retirement age. That means that about 76 million people born between 1945 and 1964 are reaching the age when all sorts of age-related problems start raising their ugly head. The scariest, at least for this dynamic group, is Alzheimer”s disease. There is nothing as horrifying for baby boomers as losing independence and being unable to take care of themselves for even the most basic functions.
About 5 million Americans are at this moment diagnosed with Alzheimer”s disease. Two-thirds of them are women. Alzheimer”s is the 5th major cause of death for people over 65 years old. What is even more scary is the fact that Alzheimer”s is the single major cause of death that we do not know how to prevent, cure, or even slow down. But, is that exactly the truth?
What is Alzheimer”s disease?
Let”s be clear about one thing first: Alzheimer”s disease is not a normal part of ageing. It is a disease, a deadly brain disease affecting mostly people 65 years and older. It progresses slowly, causing a decline in memory, reasoning, thinking and ability to function normally. Alzheimer’s disease destroys large number of brain cells, affecting memory, causing bizarre behaviors and loss of ability to control body functions. Slowly but surely, Alzheimer”s disease takes away our identity, our ability to relate to others, to think normally, eat without help, even walk, talk and remember our kids” â„¢ names.
What causes Alzheimer”s?
Like other chronic diseases, Alzheimer”s is caused by an interaction of a number of complex factors. They include genetics, age, environment and person”s other medical problems. Some of the causes we cannot affect. If we have Alzheimer”s in our family, we are more likely to get it than people who do not. People over 65 are much more likely to get it than younger people. But, there are many factors that we can change. Lifestyle and diet are in our hands.
What can we do?
Many scientists now believe that healthy heart and healthy cardiovascular system greatly decrease the risk of developing Alzheimer”s. Brain needs constant influx of oxygen and nutrients. About 20 percents of the blood in our system is used to feed our brain. If we are suffering from heart disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol or diabetes, it is very likely that our brain is not getting all the oxygen and food it needs, increasing the risk for the development of Alzheimer”s. According to some studies, almost 80 percent of people with Alzheimer’s disease also have some type of cardiovascular problem.
Diet and exercise
If you are tired of hearing that healthy diet and regular exercise are the key to good health and long life, too bad. You will have to hear it again: there is strong evidence that healthy diet, rich in vegetables, fruits, nuts and fish, such as Mediterranean diet, can greatly benefit the brain health. Regular exercise increases oxygen and blood flow, also contributing to the well oxygenated and fed brain.
Staying physically and mentally active is another finding from a number of studies about the controllable factors that affect Alzheimer”s disease. We know the old ” Ëœuse it or lose it” â„¢ and it has never been more truth as with our brain. Lively social interaction is another factor that contributes to general good health of our mind.
We know that we still do not have a way to prevent or treat Alzheimer”s disease. We know that there is nothing yet we can do about the genetics. But, at least we know that there are things we can do to decrease our risk for developing this deadly disease. While we do our part and make necessary lifestyle changes, we can hope that the science will bring the cure for this killer disease before it affects us or someone we love.