The WHO recently released a set of guidelines on how to reduce the chances of developing Alzheimer’s disease. It is fair to say that many of us fear dying of cancer but we fear living with dementia. A little reported fact is that in the percentage of the population, rates of Alzheimer’s are falling at about 10% per decade. Whilst the total number of people with it is increasing this is a function of more people in total not a higher percentage of people of a certain age.
There are multiple factors, which can make it more or less likely that we go down this path. Genetics is a factor and we cannot change our genes. However, all the other factors are within our control. And we also know that the expression of genes is influenced by our environment.
In other words, it is not a given that we have to develop dementia as we age. As the Wall St Journal reports “There is a common misconception that dementia is a regular and inevitable part of aging,” said Charles Fuschillo Jr., the president and CEO of the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America. “The WHO’s recommendations reinforce that dementia is not a normal part of aging and that there are lifestyle changes people can and should take to potentially lower their risk.”
The next question becomes what steps can we take to make it less likely that we develop this condition? It is the basics of do it yourself health. Eat a sensible diet and don’t carry excessive weight. Do regular exercise. Don’t overdo the alcohol and don’t smoke. Diabetes and high blood pressure were identified as specific risk factors. Eating a low carb diet and not carrying too much weight reduce the chances of developing either of these two conditions.
It is sad that having identified smoking as a major risk factor for a number of cancers, heart disease and now dementia that public health in many countries continue to oppose smokers reducing harm by switching to vaping. It is also sad that there remains total support in big public health for the discredited low fat diet, which has been the main cause of increased rates of obesity and type two diabetes since its introduction in the early 1980’s.
This lack of help and guidance for people does not mean that you cannot take steps today to reduce the odds of developing dementia. As a bonus these same measures make it less likely that you will develop heart disease, stroke, type two diabetes and a number of forms of cancer. They are also good for your mental health.
If you smoke, quit if you can. If you cannot then switch to a less harmful form of nicotine delivery such as vaping or heat not burn devices. It is fine to enjoy a drink but don’t drink alcohol in excess. Cut down on sugary, processed low fat foods. Eat real food and shop around the perimeter of the supermarket. Drink mainly water.
Do some regular exercise. Do what you enjoy and stick with it. Get adequate sleep and manage your stress. All of this can be done by YOU without the input of “experts” or “whole of government action” or government funded programs. All you need is the desire to be in charge of your own health. If you need help there is plenty available.
If there was a pill that reduced the chances of so many diseases it would fly off the shelf. Simple changes to how you look after yourself is not a pill and has no side effects. You can start today. It is NOT that hard.
Dr Joe Kosterich is a Medical Doctor, author, speaker, media presenter and health industry consultant, who wants you to be healthy and get the most out of life.
Joe writes for numerous medical and mainstream publications and is also a regular on radio and television. He is often called to give opinions in medico legal cases and is an advisor to Reed Medical Conferences.
Joe is Medical Advisor to Medicinal Cannabis Company Little Green Pharma and sits on the board of Australian Tobacco Harm Reduction Association.