About Mental Health

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Risk factors

【Age】

Increasing age is the greatest known risk factor for Alzheimer's disease. Alzheimer's is not a part of normal aging, but as you grow older the likelihood of developing Alzheimer's disease increases. In one study, for example, found that annually there were four new diagnoses per 1,000 people ages 65 to 74, 32 new diagnoses per 1,000 people ages 75 to 84, and 76 new diagnoses per 1,000 people age 85 and older.

 

【Family history and genetics】

Your risk of developing Alzheimer's is somewhat higher if a first-degree relative — your parent or sibling — has the disease. Most genetic mechanisms of Alzheimer's among families remain largely unexplained, and the genetic factors are likely complex.

 

One better understood genetic factor is a form of the apolipoprotein E gene (APOE). A variation of the gene, APOE e4, increases the risk of Alzheimer's disease. Approximately 25% to 30% of the population carries an APOE e4 allele, but not everyone with this variation of the gene develops the disease.

 

【Gender】

There appears to be little difference in risk between men and women, but, overall, there are more women with the disease because they generally live longer than men.

 

【Head trauma】

People who've had a severe head trauma have a greater risk of Alzheimer's disease. Several large studies found that in people age 50 years or older who had a traumatic brain injury (TBI), the risk of dementia and Alzheimer's disease increased. The risk increases in people with more-severe and multiple TBIs. Some studies indicate that the risk may be greatest within the first six months to two years after the TBI.

 

【Air pollution】

Studies in animals have indicated that air pollution particulates can speed degeneration of the nervous system. And human studies have found that air pollution exposure — particularly from traffic exhaust and burning wood — is associated with greater dementia risk.

 

【Lifestyle and heart health】

Research has shown that the same risk factors associated with heart disease may also increase the risk of Alzheimer's disease. These include lack of exercise, obesity, smoking/exposure to secondhand smoke, high blood pressure/cholesterol etc. In particular, excessive alcohol consumption has long been known to cause brain changes. Several large studies and reviews found that alcohol use disorders were linked to an increased risk of dementia, particularly early-onset dementia.

 

【Lifelong learning and social engagement】

Studies have found an association between lifelong involvement in mentally and socially stimulating activities and a reduced risk of Alzheimer's disease. Low education levels — less than a high school education — appear to be a risk factor for Alzheimer's disease.

Early Screening

As some of you may know, current research finds out that many biomarkers (such as proteins, shown in the graph below, in different colors) start to accumulate/lose functions as Alzheimer progresses, including Amyloid-beta, Tau etc.

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Alzheimer's disease progresses in stages, and it is often broken down into 3 stages (early, middle, late). But more precisely, there is an alternate, more detailed and prevalent staging system: Reisberg Alzheimer's Scale, also known as Global Deterioration Scale (GDS). It is developed by Barry Reisberg from New York University. This scale consists of 7 major clinical stages. It is used by clinicians and in care settings. Either staging system is correct, but some clinicians use one and not the other.

 

In the Global Deterioration Scale, the 7 stages are further classified into 2 different categories. Stages 1 to 3 are considered the pre-dementia stages, and stages 4 to 7 are the dementia stages. Starting at stage 5, an individual cannot survive without help (also referred as advanced).

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Currently, there is no proved treatment that cures Alzheimer's disease or alters the disease process in the brain for advanced stages of the disease. At advanced stages, complications from severe loss of brain function (such as dehydration, malnutrition or infection) could result in death.

 

But be confident! Alzheimer's disease is not a preventable condition only when it’s already advanced. If you can do early screening, assess your risks and get prepared beforehand, it will help a lot!

 

As we introduce previously, the early signs of the disease include forgetting recent events or conversations. As the disease progresses, a person with Alzheimer's disease will develop severe memory impairment and lose the ability to carry out everyday tasks.

Prevention

Medications may temporarily improve or slow progression of symptoms. These treatments can sometimes help people with Alzheimer's disease maximize function and maintain independence for a time. Different programs and services can help support people with Alzheimer's disease and their caregivers.

 

Besides medication, a number of risk factors for Alzheimer's can be modified, such as lifestyle, learning and social engagement and so on, and they tend to play a significant role in AD’s progression or prevention – it’s up to what you do.

 

Evidence suggests that changes in diet, exercise and habits, steps to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, may also lower your risk of developing Alzheimer's disease and other disorders that cause dementia. Heart-healthy lifestyle choices that may reduce the risk of Alzheimer's include:

  • Exercising regularly

  • Eating a diet of fresh produce, healthy oils and foods low in saturated fat such as a Mediterranean diet

  • Following treatment guidelines to manage high blood pressure, diabetes and high cholesterol

  • Asking your doctor for help to quit smoking if you smoke

 

Currently, there are already many studies proving that multidomain lifestyle-based interventions (nonpharmacological interventions) helped cognitive performance in patients at risk of dementia versus regular health advice [2].

 

Besides, caregiver interventions are an important component of overall care of AD, and continued support for caregivers is instrumental in treating Alzheimer’s disease holistically [3,4]: As of 2017, 48% of caregivers were unpaid while caring for a spouse, parent, or family member. Dementia caregivers tend to provide more extensive assistance as the disease progresses, with an emphasis on self-care and mobility. The care required of family members can result in increased emotional stress and feelings of depression.

 

On the other hand, studies have also shown that preserved thinking skills later in life and a reduced risk of Alzheimer's disease are associated with participating in social events, reading, dancing, playing board games, creating art, playing an instrument, and other activities that require mental and social engagement.

 

Therefore, learn new things, play some games, practice and stimulate your thinking skills, and you can also achieve connecting socially through doing this.