Advancing age

While Alzheimer’s is not a normal part of the ageing process – if it were, everyone over the age of 65 would be developing the disease! – ageing is known to be the leading risk factor. Fewer than 1% of people under the age of 65 develop Alzheimer’s, while up to 1 in 4 over the age of 85 will develop some form of dementia, regardless of their family history. After 65 our risk roughly doubles every five years.

Advancing age definitely muddies the waters, not only for Alzheimer’s but for most chronic diseases in general. As we age, we are more likely to develop health issues such as high blood pressure or heart disease as our body begins to experience the accumulation of ‘wear and tear’ just like any ‘machine’. Our cells don’t replicate quite as accurately; environmental pollutants, oxidative stress and even UV light all affect how our genes are expressed and ultimately how our body functions.

While general wear and tear to our body is unavoidable as we age, there are ways we can reduce our risk of Alzheimer’s by keeping as physically and mentally fit and healthy as possible.

One of the biggest effects of the accumulation of damage to our body as we age, is inflammation. Under control it is a natural process – our body’s immune system working to heal and repair. When it becomes uncontrolled, instead of healing it has quite the opposite effect. Scientists, Rita Guerreiro and Jose Bras tell us that, “what seemed like a farfetched idea a few years ago is now a well established fact in Alzheimer’s Disease: inflammatory and immune responses have a significant role in its development and progression.”

You can read about the age factor and Alzheimer’s disease in Dr Guerreiro’s and Dr Bras’s paper below. I’ve also included another paper asking what is normal ageing, that you may also like to delve into:

We all want to be as healthy as possible as we age and it is possible by making certain lifestyle choices, which research has shown can have a profound influence on our chances of developing certain diseases including Alzheimer’s and other types of dementia.

Our bodies changes over the course of our life-time. We’ve all heard about ‘middle-age spread’ when hormonal changes and past lifestyle choices, such as smoking or physical inactivity, begin to catch up on us as we move into middle age. Life seems to get in the way of looking after ourselves and stress levels keep rising.

The following are six simple lifestyle choices you can make that are scientifically known to reduce your risk of developing Alzheimers. If you are already middle-aged, or older, it’s never too late, just make that commitment to become a healthier you.

  • Be physically active

  • Eat healthily

  • Don’t smoke

  • Drink less alcohol

  • Exercise your mind

  • Take control of your health

The Alzheimer’s Society has put together an excellent brochure that outlines helpful ways to reduce your dementia risk. Download your free copy now.