Alzheimer’s Disease – A Women’s Issue
Alzheimer’s is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States according to the Centers for Disease Control. Interestingly, it is the only cause of death in the top ten causes of death that medical doctors cannot cure, prevent, or delay progression. Nationally, six million people have Alzheimer’s and 2/3 of people over age 65 with the disease are women.
That’s distressing news, but unfortunately, it gets worse. In Georgia, Alzheimer’s is the fifth leading cause of death, up from the national average. In the peach state, 155,000 people over 65 have Alzheimer’s, and that number is expected to increase to 190,000 by 2025. Here’s another sobering statistic, from the years 2000 to 2017, the deaths from Alzheimer’s increased 145% across the nation, but in Georgia, the deaths multiplied to 248%. That’s significant. Reasons are unclear, but Georgia does have a large number of baby boomers which would account for some of the numbers. Understandably, people with this condition need constant monitoring, and there are over 500,000 family caregivers in Georgia alone. Approximately 2/3 of those caretakers are women. Therefore, it is safe to say that Alzheimer’s is definitely a women’s issue.
Alzheimer’s is the most common form of dementia, involving parts of the brain that control thought, memory, language, and the ability to carry out activities of daily living, such as bathing, dressing, and eating. Despite the ongoing research, scientists are still uncertain as to the causes of Alzheimer’s other than advancing age. Studies have identified certain predisposing factors such as family history, diet, education level and environment.
Health disparities related to race and ethnicity can be found throughout the healthcare system, and Alzheimer’s is no exception. African-Americans and Hispanics have a higher incidence of Alzheimer’s and other dementias. This is in part due to the fact that Blacks and Hispanics have a higher incidence of high blood pressure and Type 2 Diabetes as compared to their white counterparts. Also, socioeconomic factors influence diet and lifestyle, which we know are key contributors to many of the health disparities related to chronic conditions.
Why are women more at risk than men? Research is not conclusive, but scientists now know that men’s and women’s brains are different and that affects our immunity in different ways. They have also identified a protein called tau that is abundant and necessary for normal brain function, but in Alzheimer’s it begins to shorten and it becomes tangled in knots within the nerve cells of the brain which increases the inflammation in the brain.
Dr. Dean Sherzai and Dr. Ayesha Sherzai, who make up the scientific duo Team Sherzai, are neurologists who have dedicated their careers to understanding the brain and keeping it active for a lifetime. They have performed years of research related to healthy brain function and how to prevent Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia. This committed couple has developed programs and published a cookbook, The 30-Day Alzheimer’s Solution, to educate and empower others to make dietary and lifestyle changes that will lead to active and more productive lives. By eating a fresh plant based diet, developing an exercise routine, finding ways to manage stress, and allowing time for restorative sleep you will enhance your brain’s function and take healthy to the next level.
Team Sherzai recommends the following ten things to incorporate into your lifestyle to maintain a healthy brain for a lifetime:
- Follow the MIND diet. This is a Mediterranean style diet that is a whole plant diet. Eat a variety of vegetables and fruits, but decrease the amount of meat and dairy. Preliminary studies with the MIND diet have shown a decrease risk for Alzheimer’s.
- Build cross brain connections. Meditation or grounding techniques, such as recitation or abdominal breathing, will help to redirect the brain and focus the mind on pleasant memories or sensations.
- Switch up your routine. Don’t follow the same route to work every day. Learn something new, maybe a new hobby or exercise routine.
- Take brisk walks. This decreases the inflammatory hormone, cortisol, and it encourages the growth of new blood vessels.
- Use these three exercise strategies: Thirty minutes of aerobic exercise, include some strength training for your muscles, and do this consistently for 5 days a week. Random acts of exercise don’t count.
- Replace bad stress with good stress. Seriously and with intention, look at your life and release those things that are no longer needed or not relevant to the life you want to live.
- Eat foods your brain loves. Leafy greens, blueberries, turmeric, and coffee are great starters.
- SLEEP! Lack of sleep is destructive to your brain. Aim for 7-9 hours per night.
- Establish healthy routines. Arbitrary healthy acts are not beneficial. Once your healthy routines are hard wired, they will occur naturally.
- Use SMART goals. The acronym stands for Specific, Measureable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time Sensitive
Written Buy: Cheryl Moates RN, MSN