I don’t want to get Alzheimer’s. Is there anything I can do to decrease my risk?
That’s a question that the World Health Organization recently tried to answer. They found some things that might help, but the evidence wasn’t great.
According to their report, “Several recent studies have shown a relationship between the development of cognitive impairment and dementia with lifestyle-related risk factors, such as physical activity, tobacco use, unhealthy diets and harmful use of alcohol.” There’s no doubt that all of these things effect your overall health, but do these factors specifically help in reducing the risk of getting dementia?
Take exercise. When it comes to reducing the risk of dementia, the scientific studies seem to think that exercise can help, but they are not sure. How sure are they? There is “moderate” evidence that exercise can help if you have “normal cognition.” But, if you already have “mild cognitive impairments,” then the evidence is “low” that exercise will help reduce the risk of cognitive decline.
How about smoking? The evidence that stopping smoking will help prevent dementia is “low.”
The evidence that less alcohol use and a healthy diet can help prevent dementia is “moderate.”
That’s not a lot of good news. But, as the report points out, “dementia is not a natural or inevitable consequence of aging.” So, there is always hope!
The full report, Risk Reduction of Cognitive Decline and Dementia, World Health Organization Guidelines, can be found here: https://apps.who.int/iris/bitstream/handle/10665/312180/9789241550543-eng.pdf?ua=1
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