7 Things You Can Do to Fight Alzheimer's

Study results seen as empowering to those who fear memory loss.

By Lori Preuitt
|  Wednesday, Jul 20, 2011  |  Updated 3:14 PM PDT
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A new mathematical model of global Alzheimer?s risk suggests that reducing the prevalence of well-known, lifestyle-based, chronic disease risk factors by 25 percent could potentially prevent 3 million cases of Alzheimer?s worldwide.

Alzheimer’s Association

A new mathematical model of global Alzheimer?s risk suggests that reducing the prevalence of well-known, lifestyle-based, chronic disease risk factors by 25 percent could potentially prevent 3 million cases of Alzheimer?s worldwide.

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The greatest medical minds in the field of Alzheimer's are gathered in Paris this week for the Alzheimer's Association International Conference.

The headline for the day from France came courtesy new UC research that suggest the risk of getting Alzheimer's can be dramatically lowered reduced by lowering seven risk factors. The study actually came up with a mathematical model that suggests reducing well known lifestyle-based risk factors by 25 percent could prevent 3 million people from getting Alzheimer's worldwide.

Deborah Barnes is an associate professor of psychiatry at the University of California, San Francisco. She and her associates found roughly half of Alzheimer’s cases may potentially be attributable to modifiable risk factors.

"We were surprised that lifestyle factors such as physical inactivity and smoking appear to contribute to a larger number of Alzheimer’s cases than cardiovascular diseases in our model," said Barnes. "But this suggests that relatively simple lifestyle changes such as increasing physical activity and quitting smoking could have a dramatic impact on the number of Alzheimer’s cases over time."

Barnes summed up the implications of the research in Paris by saying up to half of all Alzheimer's cases may be attributable to the following potentially modifiable risk factors:

  1. physical inactivity   
  2. depression                   
  3. smoking
  4. mid-life hypertension
  5. mid-life obesity 
  6. low education              
  7. diabetes

"In our study, what mattered most was how common the risk factors were in the population," said Barnes. "For example, in the U.S., about one third of the population is sedentary, so a large number of Alzheimer’s cases are potentially attributable to physical inactivity. Worldwide, low education was more important because literacy rates are lower or people are not educated beyond elementary school. Smoking also contributed to a large percentage of cases because it is unfortunately still very common."

The researchers caution that the estimates make an important assumption that has not been proven: that there is a causal relationship between the seven things  and Alzheimer’s disease, and that modifying the risk factors will lower Alzheimer’s risk.

The CEO of the Northern California Alzheimer's Association Bill Fisher called the study empowering.

"You and I don't have to be passive observers waiting for Alzheimer's to get us. Now we know we cna do something about that," Fisher added.

Fisher said the Alzheimer's Association is ready to help people who have the disease. They also offer invaluable support to family members. All of the information on support groups can be found at this link and there is someone able to answer questions 24 hours a day at 800-272-3900.

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