The rising occurrences of dementia and Alzheimer's disease have caused experts to predict that one-third of all Americans over 65 years of age will be victims by 2050. Before the 1960s, the average person had never heard of this memory thief illness. Some simple lifestyle changes can change the outlook.
According to a study published December 9, 2013 in the PLOS One journal by researchers at Cardiff University School of Medicine in the United Kingdom, the healthy habits Americans should be adopting to lower dementia risk are
- most importantly performing regular moderate-intensity physical exercise, the recommended level at half an hour five times a week at least walking two miles
- no smoking
- maintaining a low body weight with an acceptable Body Mass Index (BMI), a measure of body fat based on height and weight
- eating a healthy diet with a high intake of fruits and vegetables, minimum three to four a day, and less than 30 percent of calories from fat
- drinking a low to moderate amount of alcohol, three or fewer units a day.
Individuals in the study who adhered to four or five of the behaviors had a 60 percent decline in dementia and cognitive decline along with 70 percent fewer cases of diabetes, heart disease and stroke as compared with those following none of the behaviors. Those following four of the healthy behaviors had one-quarter the mortality rate of those who did none. That is the equivalent of about 14 years difference in chronological age. Except for the non-smokers, cancer incidence did not relate significantly to the lifestyle behaviors.
Dr. Doug Brown, The Alzheimer's Society Director of Research and Development, said, "We have known for some time that what is good for your heart is also good for your head, and this study provides more evidence to show that healthy living could significantly reduce the chances of developing dementia."
The study's conclusion was that "a healthy lifestyle is associated with increased disease-free survival and reduced cognitive impairment but the uptake remains low." The number of people in the study consistently following a healthy lifestyle, defined as the number of the healthy behaviors followed, was very low. Similar data was obtained in 2009 in the Welsh Health Survey based on self-reports from 15,000 adult subjects in Wales.
Health care costs are rising towards an eventual unsustainable amount unless Americans take a greater responsibility for their own health, personal prevention measures like adopting these healthy behaviors. Far more money is being spent on care of dementia patients than cancer or heart disease. Decisions ultimately lie with individual choices and are difficult to mandate by policy. The acceptance of being taxed for misuse of human bodies with things like obesity and drunkenness is unlikely. Hope seems to rest in health education promotion.
Tests for earlier diagnosis of dementia are being developed. Watch the attached video on the use of famous faces for early onset dementia testing and take the test online.