Women over 60 are twice as likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease. When a person has Alzheimer’s, their brain changes. It has fewer healthy cells, and it gets smaller over time. Most of the time, the brain cells also form two types of flaws: Neurofibrillary Tangles and Beta-Amyloid Plaques. Plaques and tangles damage healthy brain cells around them. The damaged cells die, and the brain shrinks. These changes cause the symptoms of Alzheimer’s, such as memory loss, speech problems, confusion, and mood swings.
Here’s what the science has to say about the factors that influence your risk of Alzheimer’s and cognitive decline.
- Physical: Alzheimer’s disease is known to have a profound effect on a person’s brain as the disease progresses. Nerve cell damage and death can lead to the brain’s inability to transmit and store information, which explains why those with this disease display signs of cognitive impairments. Additionally, as symptoms worsen, the overall mass of the brain begins to decrease.
- Family history: People who have a parent or sibling with Alzheimer’s are more likely to get it themselves.
- Environmental: Smoking, not exercising, and lacking regular social interactions can have the potential to impact whether or not a person experiences symptoms associated with Alzheimer’s disease.
- Exercise your body and mind: Your Body and Mind: Physical exercise is an important part of a healthy lifestyle, and some studies suggest that it can improve cognitive agility. For an Alzheimer’s patient, exercise may also help maintain muscle strength, decrease frailty, and elevate mood. “Exercising our brain,” through activities like reading, learning a musical instrument, or playing chess, can help protect people from cognitive decline later in life.
- History of head injury: A history of a closed head injury carries with it a higher risk of Alzheimer’s later in life. We need to use seat belts in cars and helmets when bicycling. Avoid risky sports activities where you would sustain a traumatic brain injury.
- Poor diet: The study showing that poor dietary habits can cause Alzheimer’s. The control group received a normal diet. The experimental group with the high fat/high sugar diet was aging prematurely. They also showed elevated inflammatory markers, elevated insulin levels, and cellular stress.