Early lifestyle disease intervention can lower risk of Alzheimer’s, say experts

Health experts say 30-40% of Alzheimer’s risk can be mitigated through lifestyle modifications involving dietary control and exercise
Early lifestyle disease intervention can lower risk of Alzheimer’s, say experts

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Early intervention in controlling lifestyle diseases such as hypertension, obesity, diabetes, etc, can reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s, say health experts. They assert that 30-40% of Alzheimer’s risk can be mitigated through lifestyle modifications involving dietary control and exercise. While factors including age and genetics remain immutable, these measures offer hope in halting progression of the disease, which is marked by memory loss and behavioral changes.

Recent findings reveal that 15 out of 100 individuals experience mild cognitive impairment, with 20% of them progressing to Alzheimer’s within six years. However, experts say incidence of Alzheimer’s is likely underestimated, given the burden of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) in the state. They highlight the challenge of early lifestyle disease intervention, as people often neglect this aspect of their well-being.

“Hypertension, a major dementia risk factor, increases the risk of microbleeds and micro-strokes over time. Halting dementia’s progression becomes increasingly challenging in the later stages,” said Dr Ramshekhar N Menon, professor of the neurology department at Sree Chitra Tirunal Institute for Medical Sciences and Technology (SCTIMST). He runs the memory and neurobehavioural clinic at the hospital. 

According to him, patients still come to the hospital at later stages of the disease even though awareness of Alzheimer’s has increased in the last 10 years. 

An ongoing survey by the health department found that close to 20 lakh people in the 30-60 age group have hypertension. Dr Syam K, who is also a professor of neurology at SCTIMST, said high blood pressure among 30-40-year-olds increase the chance of them developing Alzheimer’s when they reach 60-70. “Longevity and prevalence of lifestyle diseases are major factors. Poorly controlled hypertension, diabetes and obesity affect brain health. Diabetes-induced biochemical changes get reflected in the brain,” he said. 

According to him, increasing the capacity of the brain through intellectual activities, social interactions, etc, can delay the progression of dementia. In this direction, SCTIMST has started a programme for cognitive retraining in association with ICMR. The programme aims to stabilise patients through cognitive retraining measures and assess its impact on the progression of Alzheimer’s.

COUNTING THE COST

  • Never too early, never too late | The theme of this year’s World Alzheimer’s Day 
  • Alzheimer’s disease is the most common type of dementia
  • Findings of the health department’s ongoing NCD survey for those above 30 years of age:
  • People identified with hypertension alone: 16,01,170
  • People diagnosed with diabetes alone: 12,95,516
  • People with hypertension and diabetes: 6,07,494
  • Findings of National Family Health Survey (NFHS-5, 2019-20)
  • 36% Proportion of overweight or obese men  
  • 38% Proportion of women with same condition

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