Our parents are beginning to age, and we want to do everything we can to protect them and help them live a happy and healthy life in their golden years. That means understanding their risks and helping them, as best we can, to prevent any serious illnesses. One of the most common illnesses we hear about today is Alzheimer’s. Alzheimer’s was almost unheard of 20 years ago, and now we hear about it all the time, affecting people from their middle ages and well into their elderly years. But what causes Alzheimer’s and is there anything we can do to help prevent it?
First, we need to understand what Alzheimer’s is, then we can discuss the causes and prevention. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, Alzheimer’s is a type of dementia that affects and causes problems with memory, thinking, and behavior. It is a disease that usually develops and progresses slowly but will ultimately become so severe that it will interfere with daily tasks. If your parent already has Alzheimer’s or dementia, consider reading our blog Tips to Communicate Effectively with Someone Who Has Dementia, for some help improving your interactions with each other.
Aside from increasing age, it is believed that many factors influence when, and if, Alzheimer’s will present and how it will progress. Most believe that a combination of genetic, lifestyle and environmental factors are what contributes to the onset of Alzheimer’s, so let’s discuss these further.
If your parents have a family history of Alzheimer’s, specifically a parent or sibling, then they are more likely to develop the disease themselves. The more family members that have presented with the disease, the bigger the risk that your parents will contract it, too. Genetics play a strong role in the development of Alzheimer’s so you should start a family history if you don’t already have one started. If you aren’t sure where to start, or what information you should record, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) covers the basics for you.
There are so many areas involved when we say “health” but when it comes to what causes Alzheimer’s we can narrow it down a bit. For example, there is significant interest in the connection between heart health and Alzheimer’s. Heart disease, stroke, and high blood pressure are all part of ongoing research. Scientists are working on figuring out how reducing these risk factors, as well as, diabetes and obesity, will also reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s. Staying physically active, enjoying a nutritious diet, and keeping socially active are all great areas to encourage your parents to remain diligent in caring for their overall health.
Pollution, industrial foods, and exposure to toxins can all be attributed to what causes Alzheimer’s. Did your dad have a career that exposed him to heavy metals or pesticides? Long term exposure is certainly a concern when it comes to an understanding of what causes Alzheimer’s and is always a topic of research and study. Did your mom grow-up in a large city that was perhaps known for factories that emitted pollutants into the air? There is evidence that links air pollution and neurodegeneration, as well.
How can you help?
Now that we know what causes Alzheimer’s, let’s talk about how you can help. Encourage your parents to eat healthy, balanced diets that are rich in fruits and vegetables. These diets have high levels of vitamins, antioxidants, and minerals, whereas, diets high in saturated fat and cholesterol are harmful and cause heart health issues. Additionally, encourage them to move as much as they can in whatever capacity they are able. If you need some ideas, please visit our blog which contains several exercises for varying levels. Another way to help is to encourage your parents to make plans socially. Keeping them socially active is a great way to keep stimulating their brains and strengthen nerve cell connections. As always, it is important that you encourage your parents to stay current on their doctor’s appointments so that any areas of concern may be addressed immediately.