Know your risk of Alzheimer’s and stay sharp

Did you know that age is the single biggest risk factor for having Alzheimer’s? In fact, with every five years, post-65, the risk doubles.

Age is something you can’t alter but there are other risk factors for cognitive decline that you can do something about. Knowing some of the risks may help motivate you and your loved ones to get mentally fit this year. 

Risk 1: High Blood Pressure

Many Australians are unaware that their blood pressure is dangerously high because you don’t get symptoms to warn you.  According to the Heart Foundation, nearly six million Australians have high blood pressure. Without treatment, this puts them at high risk of a stroke, heart attack or kidney disease.

Doctors in Canada found that patients over the age of 80 who participated in a stroke prevention program that combined blood pressure medication and lifestyle changes, reduced their incidence of dementia by up to 15 per cent.

So, remember to get your blood pressure checked regularly. To reduce stress, block out time for yourself each week where you do something just for fun.

Risk 2: Diabetes

In general, the risk of developing Alzheimer’s is 10 per cent but for someone with diabetes, the risk is 20 per cent, Alzheimer’s’ Australia advises. High blood glucose levels and high insulin levels can damage the blood vessels and cells in the brain.

If your waistline is more than 80cms for women or 94cms for men, you are in the risk category for diabetes. So see your doctor, examine your diet and get some regular activity.

Risk 3:   Depression

Being depressed is not a normal part of aging. However there are many reasons this condition can sneak in and get a foothold in your life.  Your loved ones may become ill and die. Your social circle can shrink. Depression can come on after an illness or the loss of mobility or can accompany chronic pain. If untreated, depression will increase your chances of getting Alzheimer’s and vascular dementia.

Be open to making new friends as you get older. Join a group that interests you this year. For loved ones with limited mobility, volunteer associations can arrange social visitors. Stay alert to your own moods and seek help if needed. Beyond Blue on 1300 22 4636 can help.

Risk 4: Exposure to pollution

The air around roads and power plants contains microscopic particles that seep into your blood stream and lungs. These super-fine polluting particles, known as particulate matter, are the result of combustion.

When they enter your body, they cause oxidative stress and free radicals are formed.

Many studies have shown that this overload of free radicals contributes to a range of diseases, including heart failure, depression and Alzheimer’s.

Research from the University of Southern California found older women who lived in areas where they were exposed to high levels of fine pollution particles had a 92 per cent higher risk of developing dementias including Alzheimer’s.

Limit your time near highways and power plants. When choosing somewhere to live, consider the nearby roads and traffic density. On busy roads, drive with your windows up and air-conditioning on. 

Keep this in mind and boost your mental fitness in 2019.

 Kendall Morton is the director of Home Care Assistance. Email  or call 5491 6888