9 Women’s Alzheimer’s Disease Prevention Tips
Women account for two-thirds of Alzheimer’s patients in the United States.
Alzheimer’s disease is a brain ailment that causes a rapid deterioration in your ability to think, learn, organize, do everyday tasks, and recall key data. This is the most frequent kind of dementia. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, 6 million Americans have the illness, with that figure anticipated to rise to 12.7 million by 2050. In addition, over two-thirds of Alzheimer’s patients in the United States are women. Although there is currently no cure or therapy for Alzheimer’s, there are measures to minimize your risk.
Neuropsychologist Jessica Caldwell, Ph.D., breaks down the reasons why women may be more impacted by Alzheimer’s than men and recommends prevention methods.
Women are affected differently by Alzheimer’s disease
It is unclear why women are more afflicted by Alzheimer’s than males, although numerous variables may be at work. Women, according to Dr. Caldwell, tend to degrade quicker than men after being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. Women often outlive men, and while age is the leading risk factor for Alzheimer’s, it may not be the full reason.
“Some of the causes might be artifacts of our diagnostic methods,” Dr. Caldwell speculates. “For example, we know that women have stronger verbal memory than males, and our tests rely on this.” As a result, women may not be identified as early as they should be since our tests overlook key verbal memory alterations.”
Furthermore, menopause and estrogen loss are a big topic of research for Alzheimer’s because estrogen supports a brain region (the hippocampus) that is essential for establishing new memories. Because it is this area of the brain that is initially targeted as Alzheimer’s develops, women may be more harmed as they age. Furthermore, when carrying a gene related to late-onset Alzheimer’s, women have a larger increase in Alzheimer’s risk than males. On the other hand, there is some evidence that possessing two X-chromosomes may provide women an edge.
“There isn’t a clear, straightforward tale,” Dr. Caldwell explains. “We’ll have to look at Alzheimer’s as a combination of heredity, environment, and our own habits.”
Is Alzheimer’s disease preventable?
Because it’s unclear what directly influences whether or not you’ll acquire Alzheimer’s, there are a few things you may do to lower your chances.
“Research reveals that up to 40% of currently diagnosed cases of Alzheimer’s may have been averted if we knew what we know today about lifestyle factors,” Dr. Caldwell says.
Many of these risk-reduction strategies emphasize a whole-body approach to healthy living, while many focus on the health and growth of your brain.
Seek medical attention for excessive blood pressure and diabetes
When you have diabetes, your body develops insulin resistance (a hormone that helps control your blood sugar). Insulin resistance is intimately linked to inflammation, and we know that inflammation contributes to protein accumulation in the brain, which impairs various activities.
Similarly, high blood pressure (hypertension) is a risk factor for Alzheimer’s because it can interfere with the blood flow required for areas of your brain to function.
Dr. Caldwell believes that “what’s healthy for the heart is excellent for the brain.” “Changing your diet and taking steps to lower your chance of developing these illnesses might be beneficial.”
Regular exercise is essential
Because it has such a good influence on your general health, this may be the most important thing you can do to lower your chance of Alzheimer’s. Regular physical activity, in addition to enhancing heart and brain health, is beneficial to mood and stress management. HIIT (high-intensity interval training) raises levels of a particular protein that stimulates brain cell development. However, even little types of physical activity, such as meditation, yoga, and mindfulness-promoting activities, can be beneficial.
“Studies demonstrate that regular movement, including walking, might be beneficial to the brain as we age,” Dr. Caldwell explains. “Exercise directly boosts the cerebral chemistry that promotes brain health and cell growth and maintenance.” That is true both immediately after you exercise and in a sustained manner if you exercise over time.”
Avoid smoking and binge drinking
Furthermore, you should avoid anything that actively impairs brain health, such as smoking or consuming more alcohol than is suggested, as this can impair memory and thinking to process over time.
Obtain an education
The goal is to develop a stronger brain, or what Dr. Caldwell refers to as “cognitive reserve.” You’re strengthening your brain along the way by receiving your formal education and continuing to study and practice what you’ve learned throughout time, almost like a suit of armor.
“The healthier your brain, the more you have to draw from if you ever acquire a neurodegenerative issue like Alzheimer’s disease,” Dr. Caldwell explains.
Pushing yourself to actively study whenever possible may help to enhance your cognitive abilities, so even if you have Alzheimer’s, your symptoms may appear later in life, or not at all.
Continue your education
There are several techniques to improve your brain health, many of them take practice and attention to detail. You might learn to play a new instrument if you want to develop your dexterity (particularly your ability to move your hands skillfully) and memory at the same time. If you want to enhance your memory or word abilities, you may do crossword puzzles, play memory development games, or do other activities that gradually build on such habits.
“The goal here is to study and challenge yourself,” Dr. Caldwell explains.
Enhance your diet
This brings us back to avoiding anything that is harmful to your heart and brain health. The Mediterranean diet is the greatest diet to attempt and the one that most physicians recommend over all others. It helps with heart health and inflammation, among other things.
Expand your social circles
“Literature to date implies that isolating oneself isn’t merely a marker of Alzheimer’s,” says Dr. Caldwell. “There is something about being solitary that puts you in danger.”
This might be because you aren’t pushed to think or act as much while you’re alone as you would be if you were put in circumstances where dialogue, argument, and disagreements are more common. This lack of intellectual stimulation might cause your brain to process information more slowly and negatively affect your mood.
“Those without social networks may end up with more symptoms of things like sadness and chronic stress, which are also risk factors for Alzheimer’s,” Dr. Caldwell explains.
Treatment for hearing loss
This is one of the numerous midlife disorders that, if addressed, can raise the risk of Alzheimer’s disease. Hearing loss reduces intellectual stimulation since it impairs your ability to comprehend auditory stimuli. In some circumstances, this may contribute to inadvertent social isolation.
People sometimes have difficulties hearing when there is background noise in social situations when they are young. “As a result, people retreat from social circumstances and become isolated, putting themselves in a different sort of danger factor,” explains Dr. Caldwell.
As you get older, you may find that you require assistance tools that you didn’t have when you were younger, such as lists, reminders, notes, and alarms. And that’s completely OK.
“These sorts of activities are a different method to strengthen your memory since you’re actively focusing on enhancing your recall capacity,” Dr. Caldwell explains.
Early Alzheimer’s symptoms and when to consult your doctor
It’s very natural to encounter some slight amnesia as you become older. Unfortunately, Alzheimer’s develops in your brain long before symptoms show, and symptoms tend to appear gradually over time rather than all at once. The issue here is to recognize how frequently you make mistakes in judgment and how bad the problem is.
One very simple example? Maybe you’ll misplace your keys one day. That may just be a blip that happens at any age or a fluke, right? “However, if you lose your keys every day, if you lose your keys and never locate them, the frequency and intensity of that problem is a warning that something is happening to disturb your life,” Dr. Caldwell continues.
Other early warning symptoms may include:
- Forgetting significant dates such as birthdays and anniversaries.
- Inability to recall recent discussions or events.
- Frequently failing to recall certain information.
- Having difficulties coming up with words on a regular basis.
- Forgetting the name of a distant relative or long-distance friend.
If you are concerned that you may be showing early indications of Alzheimer’s disease, or if you are confused about whether it is simply forgetfulness or a severe condition, Dr. Caldwell recommends consulting with a trustworthy healthcare specialist.
“Best case scenario, you meet with your doctor, conduct some screening, and find out everything is fine,” Dr. Caldwell explains. “Sometimes it may be something treatable, such as a vitamin deficiency.” Or you may discover that you have Alzheimer’s disease, but at least you’ll be on the path to treatment and best practices in your life sooner rather than later.”