Worried you’ll get Alzheimer’s? Then follow these seven steps

Of the seven factors, low education and and lack of mental stimulation are considered the most significant

Playing chess in old age and going jogging or swimming could be the best preventative measures against the development of the degenerative Alzheimer's disease that affects one in 14 people aged 65 or over.

Along with five other factors – controlling weight, blood pressure and diabetes, avoiding depression and quitting smoking – keeping mentally and physically fit could dramatically cut the incidence of dementia, which is becoming a major human and financial burden around the globe. Mental and physical exercise are most important because they influence the others, by keeping weight and blood pressure down, reducing the risk of diabetes and depression.

People who can do all this and avoid smoking substantially reduce their risk of developing Alzheimer's. Worldwide, an estimated 33.9 million people have the condition and that number is expected to triple in the next 40 years.

In the UK, an estimated 500,000 people are affected, with one in six over-80s succumbing to the disease that strips sufferers of their dignity and personality.

A review of research presented at the International Conference on Alzheimer's Disease in Paris yesterday, and published in the medical journal The Lancet, concluded that up to half of all Alzheimer's cases worldwide are potentially attributable to the seven preventable risk factors. Of these, low education and lack of mental stimulation in old age are considered to be the most significant.

Deborah Barnes and Kristine Yaffe, of the University of California at San Francisco, who wrote the review, say that education and mental stimulation throughout life are believed to reduce the risk of Alzheimer's and dementia "by helping to build a cognitive reserve that enables individuals to continue functioning at a normal level despite experiencing neurodegenerative changes".

Post-mortem examinations have shown that people who were mentally active throughout their lives, with no sign of the symptoms of Alzheimer's disease, nevertheless had the same degeneration of the brain seen in those who suffered serious dementia while alive. The implication is that the despite this neuro-degeneration, mentally active people manage to stave off the symptoms of Alzheimer's.

Overall, the researchers estimate that the seven factors potentially contribute to more than 17 million cases of Alzheimer's worldwide, or 250,000 in Britain. A 25 per cent reduction in all seven risk factors could prevent as many as three million cases.

In a report on the study, Laura Fratiglioni, of the Karolinska Institute in Sweden, said none of the seven factors were proven to cause Alzheimer's but that "accumulated evidence from epidemiological research strongly supports a role for lifestyle and cardiovascular risk factors." Large-scale trials to change these risk factors in populations at high risk, as has been done for heart disease, should now be implemented, she added.

Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
Renee Zellweger as Bridget Jones
Arts and Entertainment


Follow the latest news and score as Chelsea take on Maribor at Stamford Bridge.

Life and Style

Company reveals $542m investment in start-up building 'a rocket ship for the mind"

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    IT Project Manager

    Competitive: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based in Chelmsford a...

    Business Intelligence Specialist - work from home

    £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established and growing IT Consultancy fir...

    Business Intelligence Specialist - work from home

    £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established and growing IT Consultancy fir...

    IT Manager

    £40000 - £45000 per annum + pension, healthcare,25 days: Ashdown Group: An est...

    Day In a Page

    Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

    Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

    Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
    British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

    British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

    Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
    Let's talk about loss

    We need to talk about loss

    Secrecy and silence surround stillbirth
    Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

    Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

    Women may be better suited to space travel than men are
    Oscar Pistorius sentencing: The athlete's wealth and notoriety have provoked a long overdue debate on South African prisons

    'They poured water on, then electrified me...'

    If Oscar Pistorius is sent to jail, his experience will not be that of other inmates
    James Wharton: The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

    The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

    Life after the Army has brought new battles for the LGBT activist James Wharton
    Ebola in the US: Panic over the virus threatens to infect President Obama's midterms

    Panic over Ebola threatens to infect the midterms

    Just one person has died, yet November's elections may be affected by what Republicans call 'Obama's Katrina', says Rupert Cornwell
    Premier League coaches join the RSC to swap the tricks of their trades

    Darling, you were fabulous! But offside...

    Premier League coaches are joining the RSC to learn acting skills, and in turn they will teach its actors to play football. Nick Clark finds out why
    How to dress with authority: Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear

    How to dress with authority

    Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear
    New book on Joy Division's Ian Curtis sheds new light on the life of the late singer

    New book on Ian Curtis sheds fresh light on the life of the late singer

    'Joy Division were making art... Ian was for real' says author Jon Savage
    Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

    Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

    The Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Barbra Streisand is his true inspiration
    Tim Minchin, interview: The musician, comedian and world's favourite ginger is on scorching form

    Tim Minchin interview

    For a no-holds-barred comedian who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, he is surprisingly gentle in person
    Boris Johnson's boozing won't win the puritan vote

    Boris's boozing won't win the puritan vote

    Many of us Brits still disapprove of conspicuous consumption – it's the way we were raised, says DJ Taylor
    Ash frontman Tim Wheeler reveals how he came to terms with his father's dementia

    Tim Wheeler: Alzheimer's, memories and my dad

    Wheeler's dad suffered from Alzheimer's for three years. When he died, there was only one way the Ash frontman knew how to respond: with a heartfelt solo album