These potentially modifiable risk factors may contribute to up to two thirds of Alzheimer's disease cases worldwide, researchers report.
Nobody wants to face a future of dementia. And given that there is no cure yet for Alzheimer’s disease, our best bet is to do what we can to stave it off. With that in mind, a major analysis looks at the factors associated with the development of Alzheimer’s to find which of these might be modified to reduce the chance of getting the disease.
Of all the holistic ways to treat a disease, nothing beats not getting it in the first place.
The researchers had their work cut out for them; they found almost 17,000 relevant studies published in English from 1968 up to July 2014. Of those, 323 of them – covering 93 different potential risk factors involving more than 5,000 people – were suitable to be included in their study. The researchers threw all the data together and graded the evidence according to its strength.
They found that nine potentially modifiable risk factors may contribute to up to two thirds of Alzheimer's disease cases worldwide. And while the risk factors are diverse and the nature of the disease is complex, the study suggests that preventative strategies may help to keep the disease at bay.
Aside from their key findings on risk factors, they also found grade 1 level evidence in favor of a protective effect for the female hormone estrogen, cholesterol lowering drugs (statins), drugs to lower high blood pressure, and anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). Likewise, they found the same level of evidence for folate, vitamins C and E, and coffee, all of which were associated with helping to stave off the disease, according to a statement for the study.
The researchers assessed what’s called the population attributable risk (PAR) for risk factors which had strong evidence of an association with Alzheimer's disease in the pooled data. PAR is a mathematical formula used to define the proportion of disease in a distinct population that would disappear if exposure to a specific risk factor were removed.
The nine risk factors they found were:
• Current smoking
• Carotid artery narrowing
• Type 2 diabetes
• Low educational attainment
• High levels of homocysteine
• High blood pressure
While addressing some of these factors may not be simple, the authors note that they are all potentially modifiable. And given that they contribute to so many cases globally, it seems prudent to tackle them (and for reasons other than Alzheimer’s as well).
Since this is an observational study, no definitive conclusions can be drawn about cause and effect, but the researchers postulate that preventive strategies that focus on diet, body chemistry, mental health, underlying disease, and lifestyle could help to lessen the number of new cases of Alzheimer's disease.
The study was published online in the Journal of Neurology Neurosurgery & Psychiatry.