As we’ve mentioned in past blog posts, dementia and Alzheimer’s disease vary in the sense that one is an effect of the other. Although Alzheimer’s is a disease that to date has no cure, there are many factors that lead to dementia that can be controlled. Some, of those factors, such as being genetically predisposed to Alzheimer’s, can’t be changed.
However, there are ways to reduce the chances of experiencing dementia. The Mayo Clinic has multiple suggestions as to how to do so and offered up the following guidelines:
- Alcohol use. Consuming large amounts of alcohol appears to increase the risk of dementia. Although studies have shown that moderate amounts of alcohol — one drink a day for women and two for men — especially red wine, have a protective effect, abuse of alcohol puts you at increased risk of developing dementia.
- Atherosclerosis. This buildup of fats and other substances in and on your artery walls (plaques) is a significant risk factor for vascular dementia because it interferes with blood flow to your brain. This can lead to stroke. Studies have also shown a possible link between atherosclerosis and Alzheimer’s disease.
- Blood pressure. Blood pressure that’s too high, and also possibly too low, can put you at risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease and vascular dementia.
- Cholesterol. High levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, the “bad” cholesterol, can significantly increase your risk of developing vascular dementia. Some research has also linked it to an increased risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.
- Depression. Although not yet well understood, late-life depression, especially in men, may be an indication for the development of Alzheimer’s-related dementia.
- Diabetes. If you have type 2 diabetes, you’re at increased risk of developing both Alzheimer’s disease and vascular dementia.
- High estrogen levels. High levels of total estrogen in women have been associated with greater risk of developing dementia. This can be determined through a blood test.
- Homocysteine blood levels. Elevated blood levels of homocysteine — a type of amino acid produced by your body — may increase your risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease and vascular dementia. When working properly, your body breaks down homocysteine using vitamins B-6, B-12 and folic acid. If this isn’t happening properly, it may be because you don’t metabolize these vitamins well, or you don’t have enough of them in your diet. Blood tests can determine whether you have elevated homocysteine levels.
- Smoking. Smoking likely increases the risk of developing dementia because it puts you at a higher risk of atherosclerosis and other types of vascular disease.