By the age of 90, Alzheimer’s disease will affect 1 in 3 people
May 18, 2023
Alzheimer’s disease (AD) begins in the brain 20-30 years before symptoms show, slowly destroying memory and thinking skills. It does this through a process called neurodegeneration. During this process, abnormal proteins build up in the brain, as the brain’s immune system fails to clear them away. These proteins – known as ‘Beta-Amyloid’ and ‘Tau’ – become toxic to the brain and eventually lead to Alzheimer’s disease.
It’s important to note that there’s no one specific cause of AD. It arises from a combination of age-related illnesses in the brain with a contribution from genetic, environmental and lifestyle factors. As we get older, age-related changes can affect our brain cells: vascular damage can prevent nutrients and blood flow getting to the brain; a poor diet may cause the brain to lack the glucose needed to power its activity; and chronic inflammation can lead to the failure of debris being cleared away. Eventually, neurons lose their ability to communicate, causing memory loss, an inability to make decisions and the ability to function independently – the extent of which varies from person to person.
Alzheimer’s disease was first described in 1906, and over the last century scientists have been making strides in understanding just how this progressive illness works. Our understanding of the disease at this stage is so incomplete and there are numerous observations that don’t always make sense. For example, some people develop chemical changes in the brain typical of AD and yet show no signs of symptoms. Others have few, if any typical changes, and yet go on to develop the disease.
What can we do?
The key to reducing the impact of AD, is to focus on reducing the risk of developing it. We often think that AD is not something we need to concern ourselves with until we’re in our twilight years. However, when we reach our 30s and 40s, the hippocampus – the area of the brain responsible for our learning and memory – drastically shrinks, contributing to this process of neurodegeneration. The latest research suggests that at least 40% of all AD diagnosis can be prevented, largely by changing our lifestyle. Think about implementing positive changes in your daily diet, exercise, sleep and social relationships to help reduce inflammation in the brain.
The earlier we adopt a low inflammatory lifestyle, the greater the risk is reduced. It is never too early (or too late), to start looking after your brain health. Recent research has underlined the importance of this preventative approach, noting that changes in tau have been measured in adults unaffected by the disease over a period of 20 years.
To find out just how Beta Amyloid and Tau Tangles can accumulate, watch this video linked below from the National Institute on Aging.
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