Aging can be an anxiety-provoking experience: with each passing year, it’s not unusual to become more concerned for the future, or to become increasingly anxious or morose about increasing age.
Much of the anxiety surrounding the aging process comes from the fear for loss of control, as aging populations are experiencing increasingly high rates of degenerative conditions like Dementia: a serious, debilitating, and terrifying group of conditions characterized by loss of function, memory, and cognition.
How Common Is Dementia, And What’s The Difference Between Alzheimer’s Disease and Dementia?
Dementia is not a specific disease, but instead encompasses a group of symptoms.
One in three people will develop some form of dementia in their lifetime.
Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia, accounting for somewhere between 60-80% of dementia cases.
While dementia is increasingly common, dementia is not a part of the normal aging process. Increasing rates of dementia are attributed to lifestyle factors.
What Causes Alzheimer’s Disease?
Alzheimer’s disease is caused by amyloid plaque deposits and neurofibrillary tangles in the brain. Plaque deposits and neurofibrillary tangles are highly associated with lifestyle factors.
Although certain forms of dementia have a hereditary component, the increasing prevalence of dementia is associated with rising rates of overweight/obesity, poor nutrition, high alcohol consumption, and diabetes.
Being overweight in middle age, even moderately, increases risk for dementia by 70-80%.
Every one point increase in BMI increases the risked date of progression into Alzheimer’s disease by about 7 months.
Interestingly, earlier stages of dementia are associated with a decline in body weight, which is attributed to diminished self efficacy in feeding, including low food consumption or forgetting to eat meals regularly.
Each year, Alzheimer’s disease is responsible for more deaths than breast and prostate cancer combined.
Is Alzheimer’s Disease Preventable?
Despite it’s terrifying nature, Alzheimer’s disease is not a forgone conclusion, even if you have a family history of the condition.
Practicing certain lifestyle habits can dramatically reduce your risk for the disease and other forms of dementia.
Early prevention is key: the path to Alzheimer’s disease has been shown to start in middle age or earlier. Taking cautionary steps now will help reduce your lifetime risk for the disease.
Crucial Tips For Prevention
#1. Maintain A Healthy Weight
As of 2018, more than 2 in 3 American adults are either overweight or obese.
The metabolic repercussions of overweight/obesity negatively impact the function and physiology of the brain, increasing deficits in executive function, learning, and memory.
If you are overweight or obese (even moderately), losing weight may help reduce lifetime risk for cognitive decline, Alzheimer’s disease, and other forms of dementia.
#2. Consume Omega 3s
Studies have shown that adults with higher degrees of polyunsaturated fat and omega 3 consumption have lower risk for age-related cognitive decline than those who consume less.
Lower consumption of omega 3 fatty acids is also associated with a higher risk for Alzheimer’s disease.
Studies have shown that higher omega 3 consumption helps preserve crucial grey matter in the brain.
Grey matter plays a key role in processing information. Reduced grey matter is associated with higher levels of cognitive decline throughout the aging process.
Always be sure to consume Omega-3’s from whole food products, rather than relying on supplements, as supplements are not regulated by the FDA, and may lack purity/efficacy. This is an important factor to remember in your nutrition for memory loss prevention strategy.
#3. Avoid Trans and Saturated Fats
Studies have consistently shown that consumption of saturated fats and trans fats is associated with a higher risk of cognitive decline.
Trans fat and saturated fat consumption increases inflammation, reduces the function of the blood-brain barrier, and increases of plaque in the brain.
Studies have shown that higher levels of total and LDL cholesterol increase risk for Alzheimer’s disease by increasing the amount of amyloid plaques in the brain that serve as a key marker for the disease.
Morgan Medeiros is a certified nutritionist, holding a both a Bachelor and Master’s Degree in Clinical Nutrition. Morgan completed her undergraduate education at Central Washington University, and her graduate education at Northeastern University. During her time as a graduate student, Morgan focused her area of expertise in health education, weight management, and behavioral change. Morgan has experience working in areas of nutritional neuroscience and disease prevention, obesity prevention, and weight loss. Morgan also works in areas of nutritional analysis and menu labeling for restaurants, where she is able to creatively bridge her interest in food culture and health education. In her free time, Morgan enjoys traveling, reading, writing, running, and spending time with her family and friends (including- most importantly- her dog, Clyde).