Alzheimer’s Association International Conference 2015: we know how to lower the risk, so why don’t we?

Vintage drawing of a young woman smoking

A change of lifestyle would protect this young lady against dementia: more dancing, less tobacco

bootcamp2015-small 2

In which five tips for minimizing the risk of Alzheimer’s are shared and ignored by the people most in need, although it’s never too late to benefit.

For years now, research into Alzheimer’s disease has had a clear theme: Change your lifestyle to protect your brain.

In July 2015, the Alzheimer’s Association held its international conference in Washington DC. Afterwards, they summarised some of the findings in a press release so perfect that it was re-published word-for-word by numerous newspapers—a comms officer’s dream.

No surprises, just big data confirming now familiar, common-sense advice.

We already knew what we can do to lessen the likelihood of getting Alzheimer’s, and now we know it more surely than ever. No surprises, just more proof.

Making these lifestyle changes “looks more promising than the drug studies so far,” said Dr. Richard Lipton of the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York, whose lab researches what makes up healthy aging. The findings on stress prompted Lipton to take up yoga.

The facts keep rolling in: lifestyle changes have significant impact

  1. Sleep better: 6,000+ people studied. Poor sleep is linked to mild cognitive impairment and later, Alzheimer’s. So go to bed earlier or get help. It’s worth it.
  2. Learn something new and complex: 7,000 older adults studied. Dementia risk is lower by good school grades and work demanding expertise. So work your brain: it’s worth it.
  3. Exercise, doh! 3,200 young adults studied for 25 years. The least active had the worst cognition when they were middle-aged. We knew that. So why wouldn’t you up your exercise regime? It’s worth it.
  4. Keep in touch and destress. 8,000 seniors studied for over a decade. Isolated people and those who brood over stressful events are more likely to develop mild cognitive impairment. That’s why my personal Boot Camp for Old Age includes “Make two new friends this year and every year” and “Raise the level of meditation practice.” Why wouldn’t you? It’s worth it.
  5. Eat healthy: no numbers supplied, but Lipton’s lab found a healthy diet lowered seniors’ risk of impaired executive function as they got older. Why wouldn’t you? It’s worth it.

10 thoughts on “Alzheimer’s Association International Conference 2015: we know how to lower the risk, so why don’t we?

  1. bone&silver says:

    THANK YOU. My Mum (aged 80) has recently been diagnosed with Dementia (as was her mother at 80), and has isolated herself for years due to anxiety; she also goes over and over stressful experiences. She has very few friends too. Reading these findings gives me confidence that I don’t necessarily have to go down the same path (although we all have to decline eventually of course), and encourages me that Mum’s new medication regime, new Tai Chi class, and new attempts to connect at a drop in centre will have some great benefits. I wrote about my relationship with her here if you’re interested:
    I think this is a great post as well because it’s relatively succinct yet so informed, well done. Cheers G

    1. Oh, I’m so glad that my words boosted your own confidence and hope. I wrote this nearly two years ago, and since then scientific research on many fronts continues to offer us hope. We used to think that dementia was doom, inevitable after a certain age. Now I read over and over again that a healthy lifestyle may reduce the risk of AD or dementia by around 26% per cent. The causes are multiple and complex, there’s still no guarantee, but your mother is doing three very good things. Warmest wishes for the next stage.

      1. PS Please do share the post if you think it would be helpful to your own readers 🙂

      2. bone&silver says:

        Thank you Rachel. I love the support & info we find on here 🙏🏼

      3. WordPress has great communities!

  2. lifecameos says:

    A beautifully clear summary of what is now known. After Mum was diagnosed with dementia I took more notice of it in the news and found it very interesting that both Margaret Thatcher and Alison Holst both developed dementia in their early seventies after years of sleeping four hours a night. Both were driven in their chosen occupations, full of ideas which they developed and carried out in busy fast paced lives. It seems that physically the brain’s abilities are finite.

    1. Interesting indeed! I love sleeping, myself, and am rather good at it too. So I hate to hear of others struggling to sleep, and to find out how powerful sleep is in keeping us healthy and steady. I’ve known some people who deliberately skip sleep and even consider this an asset. Seems that’s just too tough, as you say.

  3. Robyn Haynes says:

    Such a compelling question Rachel. I’ve often asked myself ‘why wouldn’t I?’ knowing to follow those guidelines is good for me. I think it’s a combination of blood-mindedness and a conviction it won’t happen to me – neither of those reasons ‘cut the mustard’. Beyond that, I’m a total enigma to me.

    1. Me too — which is why all personal advice on health is ideally of the take-it-or-leave it variety.

      1. Robyn Haynes says:

        How is it when we know what’s good for us we often ignore the advice? Generally I am careful to look after myself but sometimes … well … you know.

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