Study of risk factors – How to reduce your risk

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Of: Isabelle Wetzel

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The fear of forgetting: dementia can affect anyone. Studies provide guidance on how you can reduce your personal risk.

Frankfurt – Smaller memory lapses, long-term memory loss, no longer recognizing your own children and a complete change in personality: the symptoms of dementia are varied and frightening. More than half of Germans are therefore very afraid of developing dementia in old age. This is the result of an annual Forsa survey commissioned by DAK-Gesundheit in November 2021. According to the results, only cancer is the most feared in Germany.

The most common cause of dementia is Alzheimer’s disease, which gradually kills more and more brain cells. To date, there are only guesses as to why. Medications and long-term therapies can slow down Alzheimer’s disease and temporarily improve the patient’s condition. A new drug for Alzheimer’s disease is currently on the verge of approval and is already being hailed as a “breakthrough therapy”. So far, however, doctors have been unable to stop or cure the disease.

Alzheimer’s dementia
Goes back to the psychiatrist Alois Alzheimer, who was the first to describe the disease at the beginning of the 20th century.
~ 1.6 million people in Germany are affected, the majority are women
Increases with age (from around 65)
Healthy lifestyle, at the first signs, examination in a specialized memory clinic
Medicines, memory and orientation exercises, eg music therapy, physical activity

Risk of dementia: you can influence certain factors yourself

In addition to genetic predisposition, there are also many risk factors for Alzheimer’s dementia that can affect people with their lifestyle. These include obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure and excessive alcohol consumption: factors that are highly dependent on diet and physical activity.

Dementia Risk: Take Control of These 12 Risk Factors

According to the Federal Ministry of Health, around 1.6 million people in Germany suffered from dementia in 2018, and around 47 million worldwide – and the trend is rising. Experts estimate the number of diseases in the world in 2050 at around 150 million.

However, many epidemiological studies in recent years have shown that many dementia diseases can be avoided through a healthy lifestyle, good education, many social contacts and good medical care. For this reason, Britain’s medical journal The Lancet commissioned a panel of experts to research dementia risk factors that can influence anyone.

In the first report in 2017, scientists identified nine risk factors, and three more were added in 2020. Here are the twelve so-called modifiable risk factors for Alzheimer’s dementia:

  • lack of education
  • Overweight
  • high blood pressure
  • smoking
  • Excessive consumption of alcohol
  • Hearing impairment
  • fine dust pollution
  • Diabetes
  • depressions
  • lack of exercise
  • lack of social contacts
  • head injuries

Alzheimer’s: these foods can increase the risk of dementia

Especially when it comes to obesity, high blood pressure and diabetes, a healthy and balanced diet not only influences physical health, but also mental health and brain performance.

According to a French study, people who drink a lot of alcohol and those who completely give up alcohol have an increased risk of dementia. © J. Delmarty/Imago

doctor In an article for the American news portal CNBC, Uma Naidoo, nutritional psychiatrist and faculty member at Harvard Medical School, reported on five foods that can increase the risk of dementia and should therefore be avoided at all costs .

  • Added sugar
  • fried food
  • alcohol
  • Foods with a high glycemic index
  • Nitrites and nitrates as preservatives

Reduce the risk of dementia: this is why you should avoid sugar, alcohol and fried foods

Foods with added sugar in particular may increase the risk of dementia. They lead to excess glucose in the brain and can thus trigger memory problems. According to Naidoo, only the sugar in fruits or vegetables is healthy for the brain. According to an American study, fried foods are just as harmful. They lead to poor memory values ​​and increase the risk of developing depression.

A long-term French study looked at the effects of alcohol consumption on the brain. Researchers have confirmed what has already been clearly proven: too much alcohol is harmful to the brain. What was surprising, however, was that people who quit alcohol completely also had an increased risk of dementia.

Alzheimer’s dementia: potatoes and white bread are also harmful to the brain

Foods with a high glycemic index (GI) can also impair memory and increase the risk of dementia. The GI indicates how quickly foods raise blood sugar. It’s particularly fast with potatoes, white bread and white rice, for example, but it takes longer with whole grain products, for example.

Finally, Dr. Naidoo Nitrites and nitrates as preservatives. Among other things, pickling salt, which is used to make shelf-stable meat products, is a salt that can increase the risk of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.

Less risk of dementia: the Mediterranean diet helps with a balanced diet

Instead, experts recommend a balanced diet with plenty of fruits, vegetables, and fiber. The brain needs the right mix of nutrients to function at its best. These include polyphenols (secondary plant substances), found in nuts, fruits, vegetables, tea, berries and also in dark chocolate, vitamins C and E, vitamins B6, B12 and folic acid (B9) as well as omega-3 fatty acids, minerals and trace elements. The so-called Mediterranean diet is intended to best cover this need.

In studies conducted in Great Britain and the United States, researchers have found that the Mediterranean diet has a particularly positive influence on the cardiovascular system and brain structure. The US News & World Report has therefore awarded the Mediterranean diet 2022 as the best form of nutrition for the fifth time in a row. There are lots of vegetables, salads with olive oil, fish, seafood, nuts and seeds on the table. (I … U.S)

The information given in this article does not replace a visit to a doctor. Only experts can make the correct diagnosis and initiate appropriate treatment. Taking medication or food supplements should be discussed with a doctor beforehand.

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