Having a relative with Alz-heimer’s disease increases your risk but doesn’t guarantee that you’ll get it, too.
You can reduce the danger, though, said Bonnie Bollwinkel and Patty Guinto of the Mountain View office of the Alzheimer’s Association of Northern California and Northern Nevada.
According to the organization, one in eight aging baby boomers will develop the disease, joining 5.4 million Americans living with Alzheimer’s today.
The disease falls under the umbrella term “dementia,” which includes symptoms like short-term memory loss, changes in judgment and deteriorating problem-solving skills.
“There’s a whole menu of symptoms which can be caused by several things: stroke, vitamin B-12 deficiency, even Mad Cow disease,” Guinto said. “(Dementia) is a type of fruit, like an apple. It’s like saying you have cancer, but you don’t know what type of cancer.”
In other words, “everybody with Alzheimer’s has dementia, but not everybody with dementia has Alzheimer’s,” Bollwinkel added.
Bollwinkel recommended that baby boomers do the following to reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s.
• Exercise in several different ways. Pursue suggestions from your doctor about how much physical exercise is healthy for you – everyone has limitations.
• Eat a diet low in saturated fats. This is based on the concept that “a healthy heart is a healthy brain,” Guinto said. General fitness and healthful eating will help.
• Use your brain.
“Not by solving the same easy Sudoku puzzle every day, but by increasing the level of difficulty or learning a new language,” Bollwinkel said.
Novelty is important, so mix it up and learn something new instead of sticking to the same crossword puzzle.
“You can write your name, but can you write it upside down and backwards?” asked Guinto to illustrate the point.
• Do something social. Isolating yourself puts you at risk. It doesn’t mean you have to go to parties all the time, but get to know your neighbors.
• Reduce or avoid stress. Stress can lead to high blood pressure and heart problems.
For more information, call (800) 272-3900 or visit www.alz.org.
– Eren Göknar