Q: My 89-year-old mother passed away after having Alzheimer’s disease for about seven years. I’m 59, and I’m scared that I’m going to develop it and so will my kids. Is there anything we can do to reduce our risk? – Karen B., Stillwater, Oklahoma
A: We’re sorry for your loss, but there’s good news about avoiding Alzheimer’s. True, early-onset Alzheimer’s seems to be familial; if a parent has the gene associated with early-onset before age 50, a child has a 50-50 chance of developing it. But your mom had late-onset. Researchers have not found a specific gene associated with it in a very high percentage of cases and think that it arises from a combination of factors.
A new study in the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery & Psychiatry has identified nine risky conditions for Alzheimer’s (all modifiable, great news!) and several high-grade ways to protect yourself from developing the disease (great news, again!).
The modifiable risk factors are: obesity; current smoking (in this study they saw the risk in Asians, but we feel pretty sure that it applies to most folks); carotid artery narrowing (that’s plaque in arteries on each side of your neck leading to the brain); Type 2 diabetes (in the Asian population, which again would seem possible that this inflammatory condition ups everyone’s risk); low educational attainment; high levels of homocysteine (that’s a marker of inflammation); depression; high blood pressure; and frailty.
Fortunately, we know that getting 30-60 minutes of physical activity a day and 30 minutes of strength-building exercise two to three days a week, ditching the Five Food Felons, sleeping seven to eight hours a night, destressing and enjoying friends, family, love and sex can help banish those brain-bashing risk factors.
Other ways to lower your risk? The study found that estrogen, statins, antihypertension drugs and NSAIDs, as well as folate, vitamins C and E, and coffee all help stave off the disease.
If you and your kids embrace smart nutrition, physical activity and stress reduction, don’t smoke and take heart medications if prescribed, you’ll be following the blueprint for brain health and a long and happy life.
© 2015 Michael Roizen, M.D. and Mehmet Oz, M.D.
Distributed by King Features Syndicate, Inc.