(NaturalNews) If you’ve ever had a relative fade away from you and lose the ability to remember names, faces, events and even how to get dressed or hold a cup of coffee, you know the heartbreaking horror of the disease known as Alzheimer’s (AD). And let’s face it, the prospect of one day having AD is downright terrifying. Despite millions of dollars poured into potential treatments for AD, none of Big Pharma’s drug approaches work for long to alleviate the memory deficits and other problems of this form of dementia.
But instead of waiting and worrying about whether you may end up with AD, especially if the disease runs in your family, it makes far more sense to take action right now to prevent AD. But is that possible? More and more, it appears the answer is “yes” and it doesn’t involve drugs but lifestyle decisions.
According to a study led by Deborah Barnes, PhD, a mental health researcher at the San Francisco VA Medical Center (SFVAMC), over half of all Alzheimer’s disease cases could potentially be prevented through lifestyle changes and treatment or prevention of chronic medical conditions. And the “chronic medical conditions” she refers to are almost all preventable using a natural health approach.
Dr. Barnes analyzed data from studies all over the world involving hundreds of thousands of participants. The findings showed that the biggest modifiable risk factors for Alzheimer’s disease are (in order from the top) low education, smoking, physical inactivity, depression, mid-life hypertension, diabetes and mid-life obesity. Altogether, Dr. Barnes’ research links these risk factors to 51 percent of Alzheimer’s cases worldwide (17.2 million cases) and up to 54 percent of Alzheimer’s cases in the United States (2.9 million cases).
The study was presented at the 2011 meeting of the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference on Alzheimer’s Disease currently underway in Paris and was just published in the journal Lancet Neurology.
It’s of interest to note that many of these so-called modifiable risk factors can all be reduced or totally done away with by a natural, healthy lifestyle. A case in point: exercise has been found to help treat depression, obesity and high blood pressure. And by getting weight under control, type 2 diabetes can often be prevented and even may be reversed.
Smoking and a lack of education are two factors that can be changed by taking personal responsibility and making choices. For example, a lack of formal education does not mean a person can not change that risk factor — you can learn new skills and languages, take college or online classes, read more and find other ways to increase your education.
“What’s exciting is that this suggests that some very simple lifestyle changes, such as increasing physical activity and quitting smoking, could have a tremendous impact on preventing Alzheimer’s and other dementias in the United States and worldwide,” Dr. Barnes, who is also an associate professor of psychiatry at the University of California, San Francisco, said in a media statement.
“We are assuming that when you change the risk factor, then you change the risk,” Dr. Barnes continued. “What we need to do now is figure out whether that assumption is correct.”
The idea that lifestyle changes involving healthy living could make a huge difference in the number of people with Alzheimer’s is important on a personal level and also because it has enormous world-wide economic implications.
Senior investigator Kristine Yaffe, MD, chief of geriatric psychiatry at SFVAMC, pointed out in the press statement that the number of people with Alzheimer’s disease is expected to triple over the next 40 years. “It would be extremely significant if we could find out how to prevent even some of those cases,” said Dr. Yaffe, who is also a professor of psychiatry, neurology and epidemiology at UCSF.