Risk Of Alzheimer’s Disease Greater in the UK

With the growing number of older adults worldwide and the prospect of retirement being a luxury that only the affluent can afford, those of us with our full faculties in tact should make every effort to prevent age- related disease such as Alzheimer’s Disease (AD) and dementia.

A recent study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) reported that adults in the US were much more likely to have hypertension, obesity, diabetes and heart disease than adults in the UK. According to this study, there is growing evidence that these cardiovascular risks also all carry risks for cognitive decline and AD or dementia among older adults.

International comparisons of cognitive health have been made difficult by a lack of comparable data between the UK and US. Now, for the first time a comparison has been made, using the same cognitive measures using nationally representative samples of people older than 65 in both the US and UK. Kenneth Langa, from the University of Michigan, led a team of researchers who used data from the US Health and Retirement Study (HRS) and the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing (ELSA) to compare the brain health of elderly people from both countries.

Alzheimer’s Disease and Dementia: Comparing cognitive decline

In each country, the cognitive performance of participants was assessed by using the same tests of memory and orientation on a 0 to 24 point scale. The researchers looked at the following objectives:

1. Are there differences in cognitive function among adults aged 65 and older in the two countries; and

2. If so, are there differences in demographic, socioeconomic or health measures across the two countries that account for the difference in cognitive function?

The results showed that US adults scored significantly better than English adults on the 24-point scale and this was apparent even though US adults had a significantly higher incidence of cardiovascular risk factors or disease. The difference measured was 12.8 versus 11.4 out of 24. This difference indicates the scale of decline associated with about 10 years of ageing. In other words, 75-year-olds in the US had memories as good, on average, as 65-year-olds in the UK.

Further analyses showed that demographical and medical factors, higher education and wealth and lower levels of depression accounted for some of the US advantage. US adults were more likely to intervene earlier in preventing and treating cardiovascular disease than their UK counterparts which, according to Langa, contribute to better cognitive function, as a result of better quality of life.

A comparative study like this bares great significance, considering the growing number of older adults worldwide. The ages 65-75 is socially not considered to be that old anymore and many people in that age-bracket are still working. Aiming to identify the medical and social factors that may prevent the delay of cognitive decline will not only make a valuable contribution to public health but also on a socioeconomic level.

Alzheimer’s Disease and Dementia: Make it go away or make it better

If you are worried about cognitive decline then there are lifestyle changes you can make to keep your faculties in good shape. While the exact cause of Alzheimer’s and dementia remains unclear, the greatest known risk factor is increasing age: the chance of developing Alzheimer’s seems to double every five years after age 65. After age 85, the risk of developing Alzheimer’s is about 50 per cent. If minimizing the risk of Alzheimer’s is on your list of healthy life changes, add these steps to your daily routine:

* Challenge yourself: A growing body of medical evidence suggests that lifelong stimulation is the key to building and maintaining brain cells, staving off memory loss and maybe even preventing cognitive decline and Alzheimer’s disease. Try doing interesting work (paid or volunteer), pursuing hobbies, engaging in an active social life, taking music or language lessons, or learning a new computer programme.

* Supplement with vitamins C and E: A US study at Johns Hopkins University suggested that vitamins C and E taken together might slow the progression of cognitive decline and Alzheimer’s.

* Use a daily multivitamin that provides adequate levels of folic acid and other B vitamins. They help the body reduce levels of homocysteine, an amino acid formed by the breakdown of animal protein that (at elevated levels in the bloodstream) has been linked with increased risks of Alzheimer’s and dimentia.

* Use healing spices in your cooking: Turmeric, ginger and red pepper can add zing to meals and are all natural anti-inflammatories.

* Eat a diet rich in omega-3s: Include wild Alaskan salmon, sardines, freshly ground flaxseed and walnuts.

* Fresh and organic: Incorporate plenty of fresh, organic fruits and vegetables in your meals.

* Reduce your intake of polyunsaturated vegetable oils: (such as sunflower, corn and safflower oils), replacing them instead with extra-virgin olive oil.

* Go for the ginkgo: Boost mental function by taking 120 to 240 mg a day of a standardised herbal extract of Ginkgo biloba

* Explore acetyl-L-carnitine: Taking 1,500 mg a day of this supplement may improve memory, mood, and responses to stress

* Boost your memory with B vitamins: Treat deficiencies of vitamins B6 and B12 for improved memory and other brain functions

* Get moving: Start a walking programme or join an exercise group to gain brain-function benefits by improving your blood circulation and enjoying a healthy heart.

* Don’t Forget CoQ10: Not only does Coenzyme Q10 boosts overall energy levels by helping to restore normal cellular energy production, but it also plays an important role in maintaining cardiovascular health and it revitalizes the aging brain and may slow cognitive decline.

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Cognitive health among older adults in the United States and England’ by Kenneth M Langa et al, published 23.06.09, BioMed Central, biomedcentral.com

8 Ways to Prevent Alzheimer’s’ by Dr. Weil, published online 23.06.09, drweil.com