Older adults fear Alzheimer’s disease (AD) more than almost any other condition (outranked only by cancer). And a lot of that fear stems from the great unknown. Mainstream medicine simply hasn’t done a good job nailing down the risk factors for why people develop it.
But in my view, you have much more control over the fate of your brain than the mainstream leads you to believe. In fact, a new study nails down key risk factors for developing cognitive decline as you age.
I’ll tell you all about them in just a moment, but first, let’s back up to put everything into context…
Life expectancy is on the rise — but so is cognitive decline
As you may already know, experts expect the population of older adults in the U.S. to nearly double by 2050. Plus, they expect the number of people 80 years or older to actually triple. And the average lifespan may even reach 94 years by 2050.
But with that increased longevity comes the increased risk of developing age-related diseases, including decreased cognitive function.
I use the term cognitive function a lot. But what does it really mean?
Basically, it describes the different ways you process and store information. It includes abstract thought, language, visual processing — and, of course, memory.
Cognitive decline describes the decrease or loss of any of these functions. Experts used to view it as a “normal” part of aging, once upon a time calling it “senile dementia.”
But most experts now take the view that while some loss of processing speed is normal, significant decreases need not be a normal part of aging. And I emphatically agree.
Taking (gray) matters into your own hands
For the new, large-scale, national study — published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease & Associated Disorders — more than 3,000 adults aged 62 to 90 answered survey questions about their lifestyle and dietary habits.
They also took a test to assess cognitive function. The lower the score, the greater degree of cognitive impairment. Turns out, 72 of the participants had what researchers considered some degree of cognitive impairment.
Then, the research team analyzed the results to determine five major risk factors associated with cognitive decline. And here’s what they found…
- Increased age
No big surprise here. And not much you can do about your age. But, the older the participant, the higher their risk of cognitive impairment.
Older women showed higher cognitive scores on average to start, but declined more quickly, which eliminated any gender differences by age 90. Again, not much you can do here.
Participants who needed assistance with daily activities — such as handling finances and preparing meals — also had lower levels of cognitive function.
This IS something you can control. Every meal you cook…every doctor’s appointment you drive yourself to…every errand you run, like you always have…they all play a part in keeping your mind fit.
- Education level
Participants with at least a high school degree had slower rates of cognitive decline compared to those who didn’t complete high school.
Furthermore, men and women with at least a bachelor’s degree didn’t begin to show any cognitive decline until age 70.
This finding doesn’t mean you have to enroll in the nearest university and get a degree in order to prevent cognitive decline (unless you want to). I think there’s a broader message here. Keeping the mind active results in a lower risk of developing cognitive decline.
So — make it a priority to enrich your mind. Make time for the books you’ve always wanted to read, but never got around to. Challenge yourself with a crossword puzzle. (I recommend those found in The New York Times.) Play cards with friends. Take a foreign language class. Try to learn a new craft or skill, like painting or photography.
People who engage in new activities that challenge the brain are twice as likely to avoid AD and dementia. When you use your brain to solve problems, learn new information, form new memories, and recall old memories, you maintain existing brain circuits. And you help create new circuits.
- Overall health
Participants in “fair” or “poor” health had lower cognitive function compared to people with “good” or “excellent” health. The study also found a link between specific health conditions and cognitive decline. For example, participants suffering from depression had greater cognitive decline.
Another disease-specific, stand-out involved cancer…
Turns out, cancer survivors had greater cognitive impairment than those never diagnosed with cancer.
Here, I have to wonder, did the decline stem from the disease or the treatment? (Apparently, the researchers didn’t raise this question.) Chemotherapy notoriously causes damage to the brain and nervous system tissue, resulting in the common complication of “chemo-brain.”
Of course, there are many, many natural steps you can take to support your overall health, so keep reading…
Some surprising and not-so-surprising results
The study’s lead author, William Dale, M.D., Ph.D., works at the City of Hope National Medical Center in Duarte, California. While attending college in southern California during the summer of 1973, I received a Hendler Undergraduate Research Fellowship at City of Hope. And I worked in City of Hope’s Pulmonary Biochemistry lab with Dr. Jack Lieberman, as I reported last month.
I found it interesting Dr. Dale and his team kept referring to their results as somehow “surprising.” Why do they consider it surprising when so much previous evidence supports their conclusions?
Plus, they made no mention of research conducted in their own backyard for how to reduce these risk factors and prevent dementia…
As you may recall, three years ago, a team of researchers with the University of California, Los Angeles, found nine out of 10 people with dementia-related memory loss who followed a dozen natural steps enjoyed significant, sustained improvements in their memory. This research is probably the single, biggest clinical research breakthrough on nutrition and dementia.
But the City of Hope team made ZERO mention of this research in their reports. And UCLA is literally just down the road (or freeway)!
Perhaps the City of Hope researchers don’t get out much — or lift their heads out of their own small research bubble — to consider the important findings of their colleagues just down the road.
However, I also know from my own research that the UCLA study left out several key steps. Plus, they didn’t get all the dietary supplements, combinations, or the doses quite right.
Which is why I developed my own Complete Alzheimer’s Cure online learning protocol. It covers all the UCLA steps outlined in the study, in addition to many other strategies for preserving memory and achieving complete brain recovery. You can learn more about this learning tool or enroll today by clicking here.
P.S. The City of Hope researchers missed two significant risk factors for developing dementia, which I’ll tell you all about on Thursday. Stay tuned!
“Risk factors for cognitive decline: Signs and interventions for older adults,” Rachel Morrison, Risk factors for cognitive decline, Breakthroughs, City of Hope National Medical Center, February 26, 2018.
“Cognitive Function and its Risk Factors Among Older US Adults Living at Home,” Alzheimer Disease & Associated Disorders (journals.lww.com/alzheimerjournal) 1/12/18