Is it Possible to Prevent or Delay Alzheimer’s Disease?

My sister was recently diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s disease at the age of 60. Is there anything I can do to prevent or delay a similar diagnosis?

Alzheimer’s disease (or Alzheimer’s dementia) is a common medical condition affecting many elderly individuals, with up to one-third of people over the age of 85 being diagnosed with the condition. Scientists believe that for most people, Alzheimer’s disease is caused by a combination of age, genetics, and lifestyle factors that affect the brain over time.

People who develop Alzheimer’s do not always have a history of the disease in their families. However, having a family history does increase your risk of developing Alzheimer’s.

What is Alzheimer’s Disease

Alzheimer’s Disease is a type of dementia caused by specific changes to neurons in the brain that affects an individual’s memory, language, and thinking skills. Common signs can include losing track of dates, repeating questions or forgetting recently learned information, and a loss of spontaneity or initiative.

There’s currently no cure for Alzheimer’s disease. Therefore, medical specialists focus on preserving cognitive function by delaying and reducing the onset of worsening symptoms with prescription drugs such as Donepezil (Aricept™), Galantamine (Razadyne™), and Rivastigmine (Exelon™). Usually, these treatments are the most effective in the early stages of the disease but an individual’s response to the treatment can vary greatly from one person with Alzheimer’s to the next.

Heart-Mind Connection

Researchers have started building on the connection between heart health and brain health, and their findings suggest that focusing on heart health can reduce a person’s risk of developing dementia. While you can’t change your age, genetics or family history, there are some things you can do to reduce your risk of cognitive decline and dementia.

Some of these positive lifestyle choices include incorporating physical movement into daily life, not smoking or vaping, staying socially and mentally active, as well as managing blood pressure and adopting a heart-healthy diet. In some cases, making these changes might prevent or delay up to 40 per cent of dementia cases.

Heart-healthy Diets and Supplements

Some examples of heart-healthy diets include the Mediterranean, DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) and MIND (Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay) diets. These diets all focus on incorporating more fruits, vegetables, and whole grains into meal choices, while avoiding convenience and other processed foods that are higher in sodium and added sugars.

If you have high blood pressure or diabetes, your health care provider may have mentioned the benefits of adopting this style of eating—but, essentially, this whole-food approach can benefit everyone, no matter their age or overall health.

It is worth mentioning that there is no medical evidence to suggest that the use of vitamins or supplements, including vitamins C, D and E, omega-3 fatty acids and ginkgo biloba, are beneficial to preventing cognitive decline or onset of Alzheimer’s disease.

Genetic Testing for Alzheimer’s Disease

Genetic testing for Alzheimer’s has made headlines over the last few years. If you are concerned about your risk of developing the disease and have questions about eligibility for genetic testing, speak with your health care provider or medical specialist for more information.

The information provided in this article is for personal use, reference, and education only. ASEBP does not provide medical advice. Before starting any medication or product, you should always consult with your pharmacist, health care provider, or call Alberta Health Link at 811.

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How ASEBP Supports You

ASEBP’s Extended Health Care benefits provide coverage for a range of medications and other medical services, such as psychology and counselling, to support you. For more information, contact a benefit specialist.

If you have ASEBP’s Employee and Family Assistance Program (EFAP), you can access four cost-free hours of counselling or health coaching each calendar year. Get support from mental health practitioners, registered nurses, registered dietitians, and others to make positive lifestyle changes and take care of yourself, whether you have received an Alzheimer’s diagnosis or have a friend or family member who is living with dementia.

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