As we age, it’s normal to consider our risk of developing certain health conditions, including Alzheimer’s or dementia. If you have loved ones with dementia, you might be worried about your own risk of developing memory loss or dementia.
Information and misinformation is plentiful when it comes to Alzheimer’s risk and dementia. Here are five common myths about your risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease or dementia and facts to dispel those myths.
Myth: If I live long enough, I will eventually develop Alzheimer’s disease or dementia.
Fact: Yes, there are more cases of dementia today because the average life span has increased, and risk increases with age, but not all adults will develop Alzheimer’s or dementia. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, one in three senior adults dies with Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia. The World Health Organization estimates that just five to eight percent of the general population over age 60 is living with dementia. Nearly 14 percent of the population over age 71 has some form of dementia.
Myth: I will develop Alzheimer’s disease because it runs in my family.
Fact: Risk of dementia does run in families, but genetic predisposition to Alzheimer’s disease or dementia isn’t a guarantee that you will develop dementia. People with a genetic risk of Alzheimer’s disease can lower their risk by making brain-healthy lifestyle choices. According to the Mayo Clinic, regular physical activity, a healthy diet and keeping your brain active through lifelong learning may help reduce the risk of dementia as you age.
Myth: Brain games are the only way to protect against dementia.
Fact: Specially designed “brain games” can be helpful in dementia prevention, but they aren’t of any greater benefit than other activities that challenge your mind. Reading, learning a new language, taking an art class, playing video games, doing stimulating work are just some of the everyday things you can do to benefit your brain health.
Myth: Daily supplements can help protect brain health.
Fact: The market is over run with vitamins and supplements promising to promote brain health. While these substances may not hurt, the World Health Organization notes that there are no reputable studies to confirm the value of these products when it comes to brain health. The Alzheimer’s Association recommends eating a healthy diet that includes plenty of vegetables, fruits, healthy grains, fish and poultry and healthy fats.
Myth: Alzheimer’s disease is unrelated to other health conditions.
Fact: Your brain does not stand alone, unaffected by your overall health. Numerous diseases and health conditions can cause harm to your brain and increase risk of Alzheimer’s or dementia, such as diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, depression and stress, to name a few. Managing your health conditions can reduce your risk of memory loss and may even slow the progression of existing dementia.
While nobody can predict the future, there are things you can do to help lower your risk. Most importantly, make regular healthcare checks a priority and don’t be afraid to have a conversation with your medical doctor about your risk of developing dementia and what you can do to help prevent it.