A Personalized Approach to Alzheimer’s Disease Prevention

Journal of the American Geriatrics Society Research Summary

Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is a type of dementia that causes problems with memory, thinking, and behavior. It affects more than 5 million Americans. The Alzheimer’s Association estimates that some 16 million people will develop the disease by the year 2050 if an effective treatment is not discovered. Symptoms of AD usually develop slowly and worsen over time. They often become severe enough to interfere with daily tasks, and can eventually cause death.

In a new study, published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, James E. Galvin, MD, MPH, Professor of Integrated Medical Science and Associate Dean for Clinical Research, Charles E. Schmidt College of Medicine, Florida Atlantic University, examined potential AD prevention strategies.

Dr. Galvin notes that just four medications have been approved to treat AD symptoms. A major effort is underway to develop new treatments for the disease by the year 2025, and researchers have launched several new studies.

Another area of research interest focuses on AD prevention strategies. In studies of people with AD, researchers have discovered conditions that increase risk factors associated with the disease. When these conditions are combined, they account for more than 50 percent of the risk for AD.  They include:

Researchers looked at 19 studies about various brain-stimulating activities that may lower risks for AD, .  They discovered that doing crossword puzzles, playing card games, using a computer, making arts or crafts, taking classes, having group discussions, and listening to music all had protective effects against AD.

Researchers have learned that physical activity helps reduce AD risk by up to 65 percent, depending on the type of exercise and its intensity. That’s because exercise reduces blood vessel disease risk, improves your breathing function, supports the survival of the cells that make up your body, and lessens inflammation.

Age remains the greatest risk factor for AD: by 82, the risk for developing the disease is 42 percent. The good news: 58 percent of older adults do not develop AD.

Presently, we don’t understand why some people develop the disease and others don’t. But addressing the risk factors we do know about could make a difference. For example, up to 30 percent of AD cases may be preventable by living a well-balanced, healthy life. That would include eating a healthy diet with plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grain foods, lean proteins, and few to no “fast” or processed foods. A healthy lifestyle also includes physical activity and social engagement.

The future of researching ways to prevent AD should probably focus on people at risk for developing the disease, said researchers, and should highlight how to improve management of chronic health conditions and education about living healthier.

This summary is from “The Prevention of Alzheimer’s Disease: Lessons Learned and Applied.” It appears online ahead of print in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society. The study authors are James E. Galvin, MD, MPH, and Charles E. Schmidt.

2 thoughts on “A Personalized Approach to Alzheimer’s Disease Prevention

  1. My husband has PPA frontal lobe dementia. It is interesting that from what I have read Alzheimers may be the pathology for frontal lobe dementia. However, the suspected lifestyle and overall health habits would have never suggested that he would have been at risk. He has an MBA and worked in a high-powered job before retirement. He played tennis regularly and competitively all of his adult life, no alcohol/smoking/drug problems. His dietary habits were good; no over weight problem. He does not have high cholesterol, high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes or any disease history. He is 74 and was diagnosed 2 years ago; we had initially been doctoring for the previous two years before diagnosis trying to determine was was happening to his previous good health.

  2. I can concur with what what you say Patti. I and other volunteers run a lunch and social club for people living with dementia. We have members who obtained good university degrees, were excellent sportsmen throughout their lives and coped with highly demanding jobs in industry, medicine and finance.
    What I can say is these members continue to be interesting people who can offer much to our group. We have found that, not only do they have the ability to reawaken old skills, but they can actually acquire new ones. This has surprised and delighted us.
    Enjoy your life together for however long you have. None of us know what’s just around the corner.

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