In my research, I aimed to find articles that support what I already know about preventing Alzheimer’s Dementia. I sought out studies that evaluate the importance of a healthy diet, physical activity, and avid social engagement in relationship to the disease as well as the causes of the disease that are less out of one’s control, such as brain-amyloid deposition. Considering all the factors that can contribute to AD, I hoped to develop a more comprehensive understanding of what is under our control when it comes to preventing AD.
One of the research articles I reviewed studied the relationships between brain amyloid deposition and its impact on the daily functioning of elderly adults. Brain amyloid depositions are plaques on the brain that can contribute to the onset of AD. The study was conducted using longitudinal research methods which means the same group of people were studied over a period of time. Two hundred sixty-nine participants aged 70 and older living without dementia were evaluated in the study over the course of 36 months. A little less than half (37.9%) of the individuals evaluated in the study were amyloid-positive. The participants were evaluated based on self-reporting their scores in different instrumental activities of daily living (IADLs). The four main areas of IADLs were memory abilities, executive functioning, outside activities, and indoor activities. Overall, the researchers found that “amyloid‐positive and ‐negative older adults without dementia may experience different trajectories of functional performance” . More research must be done to assess what can be done early on in the process of acquiring AD to alter the course of the disease. Brain amyloid depositions can contribute to other forms of dementia, not just AD. There are many other factors that contribute to AD that must be taken into account. “One of the main challenges for clinicians is to better understand the pattern of deterioration in daily functioning during the preclinical phase of dementia in order to offer the earliest, most‐specific treatment,” the researchers noted in the conclusion section of their study.
Although brain-amyloid depositions do contribute to the onset of AD, this study pointed out that amyloid plaques on the brain are not the sole cause for AD. This disease is complex and has many contributing factors.
Another study I looked at focused on the social aspects of preventing the onset of AD through lifestyle intervention. In this study, the researchers conducted a 6-month lifestyle behavior intervention on 133 cognitively-normal adults aged 39-64. The researchers saw that some areas of AD prevention had rarely been touched on in previous studies and decided to focus in on them. These areas are social engagement, stress management, cognitive stimulation, physical activity, food choices, and sleep. The participants in the treatment group attended an educational training workshop related to reducing the risk for AD, whereas the control group participants were just given normal health advice. Those in the treatment group were asked to journal their experiences which served as a way for the researchers to analyze the effectiveness of the workshop. The results showed that participants from the treatment group saw improvements in several categories of brain health and social well-being. I think focusing on social well-being as a way to prevent the onset of AD is extremely important and should continue to be analyzed in future research. Positive social interaction promotes healthy lifestyles and a reduced risk for AD in late adulthood.
A third research study I consulted was centered on assessing the impact of physical activity on AD prevention. As we discussed in class, appropriate physical activity is important for health and morale in late adulthood. Increasing age is undoubtedly the highest contributing risk factor for the onset of AD. This study aimed to find out whether or not appropriate levels of physical activity can improve the health of older adults and therefore delay the onset of AD. Three hundred seventeen late-middle-aged-adults from the Wisconsin Registry for Alzheimer’s Prevention (WRAP) participated in this cross-sectional study. The study found that there is a positive correlation between appropriate physical activity and decreased risk for AD. However, this study had its limitations-- since it was a cross-sectional study, the researchers were unable to determine whether or not appropriate physical activity introduced earlier in life would also delay the onset of AD.
In class and in our textbook, the importance of a healthy diet in preventing AD is thoroughly emphasized. I read a couple of research articles that discussed the impact of a Mediterranean diet on brain health and lowering the risk for AD. In a study from the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, researchers implemented Meditteranean and DASH dietary patterns in a test group of elderly men and women and tracked their cognitive functioning over the course of 11 years. The study found that these dietary patterns contributed to higher levels of cognitive functioning among the test subjects. In a research review from the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, researchers noticed similar findings related to the Mediterranean diet as well as its associations with decreased risk for AD in older adults.As I previously mentioned, Alzheimer’s Dementia is a disease that has had a deeply personal impact on myself and my family. My grandmother was diagnosed with the disease when I was young. For my additional exploration, I wanted to interview my mom, Kelly Hutchison, to discuss what she does for herself and for our family to prevent the onset of AD.
My mother’s mother was diagnosed with AD several years ago. In almost all my memories of my grandma, her symptoms of the disease were prevalent. We have a family history of AD. My grandma is currently living with the disease and my mother’s great grandmother also had AD.My mom incorporates preventative tactics in her daily life. “I do try to keep my mind active with socialization, reading, and different games that keep the mind sharp,” she told me. One of the games she plays on her phone is called “Peak”. The game consists of different categories of activities such as emotional, mental agility, memory, and logic. After she plays the games, she can compare her performance to other people playing the same games in her age bracket. She also plays sudoku, “Words with Friends”, and other games to keep her mind active.
Proper nutrition is important in preventing Alzheimer’s and a healthy diet has always been a priority in our house. My mom encourages us to eat healthy fats, omega-3s, and “brain foods” such as nuts, salmon, and avocados, to name a few. She also tries to limit her consumption of red meat, processed, and fried foods. “She had a fairly poor diet,” my mom said about my grandma. “Never liked lettuce or leafy greens.” As I learned from my research, incorporating aspects of a ‘Mediterranean diet’ in your life contributes to a reduced risk for AD.
My mom will be 53 years old in January. When I asked her what her mom was like at that age, she said that her mom was much more antisocial due to traumatic life events including the passing of some of her close family members. My mom believes my grandma’s antisocial tendencies contributed to depression later in life. “She was very isolated, not interactive for the most part,” my mom said.For my mom, the most important preventative measure she can take is to remain positive. “If it is something that is truly genetic, I don’t spend time worrying about it,” she said. She prefers to remain focused on the things that are in her control such as her mental health, diet, and physical and mental activity. She plans on consulting her doctor in the near future to learn what she should do moving forward due to the familial risk.Alzheimer’s Dementia is a complex disease. Although its onset is most common in late adulthood, early onset AD can occur in middle adulthood. It is important to consider how AD can be related to the lifespan development theories we have discussed in class.
Early in the semester we discussed the ecological systems theory and how its concepts can be applied to events in early childhood. This theory can also be applied to preventing the onset of AD. As I gleaned from the research review, positive social well-being is crucial to maintaining brain health. According to our textbook, the microsystem level consists of the individual’s immediate surroundings. A supportive family and network of friends at the microsystem level is crucial to prevent or delay the onset of AD. Activities within the microsystem that can contribute to a lower risk for AD include implementing a healthy diet at home; incorporating ample physical activity; and positive social interaction. The exosystem level encompasses the role of the community in development. One component of the exosystem is community health services which are extremely important when it comes to preventing AD. Adult Day Programs such as the one we saw on our field trip and the services offered through the Isabella Medical Care Facility promote positive social engagement with other adults in the community and provide a safe space for older adults to socialize and stay active.
Although this topic is sometimes difficult for me to think about, it is important. I chose to explore preventative measures against AD because of the impact this disease has had on my family. Although familial Alzheimer’s accounts for less than 1% of all cases of the disease, that does not mean I am immune. Even so, there are measures I can take to prevent or delay the onset of AD including increased physical activity, avid mental stimulation, positive social engagement, and a healthy ‘Meditteranean’ diet. After taking this topic into closer consideration, I am less afraid of the disease than I am prepared to take matters into my own hands. I know now that there are clear steps I can take to maintain my mental and physical health long into late adulthood.