Even though we don't know much about the causes of Alzheimer's disease, having the following conditions can increase your risk or make your symptoms worse.
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This general blood disorder is defined by a decrease in red blood cells. These cells carry oxygen, which is why common symptoms are constant fatigue. This condition affects more than three million Americans. Some studies have found an association between anemia and an increased risk of dementia in older adults. One of the most common causes of anemia is iron deficiency, which can be caused by a poor diet; it can also be a side effect of certain drugs.
The concern is that by reducing brain oxygen, anemia can cause damage seen in people with Alzheimer's. The results of one 11-year study involving more than 2,500 people ages 70-79 revealed that those with anemia had a 40 percent increased risk of developing dementia compared to people who did not have anemia. See the 9 most powerful eating habits to reduce the risk of Alzheimer's.
Depression and anxiety
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"There is enough evidence that for people destined to develop Alzheimer's dementia, sometimes the first thing you see is depression or anxiety," explained Pierre Tariot, MD, director of the Banner Alzheimer's Institute in Phoenix, Arizona. However, scientists say that this mood disorder may not only be an Alzheimer's symptom – they can actually be a risk factor for developing the disease. Because depression and anxiety can increase levels of the stress hormone cortisol, one theory is that chronic cortisol levels can damage the brain.
Interestingly, antidepressant drugs are being studied as a potential treatment for Alzheimer's. "Certain antidepressants have anti-amyloid [a protein associated with Alzheimer’s] properties with sufficient credibility that there are two trials of antidepressants that aim to find out whether we can thwart the Alzheimer's process with these drugs, "Dr. Tariot. Make sure you know the 10 initial signs of Alzheimer's.
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The relationship between diabetes and Alzheimer's is quite strong. "Diabetes may be a risk factor for various reasons," said Dr. Tariot. "The top of the list is that this disease causes an abnormal inflammatory response in many organs – including the brain. Another reason is that the insulin signaling pathway is also one of the pathways involved in amyloid breakdown. Finally, diabetes contributes to cerebrovascular disease [conditions that raise the risk of stroke], which is an important factor for Alzheimer's. "
Nearly 21 million Americans suffer from diabetes, and an estimated 54 million have pre-diabetes, according to the Alzheimer's Association. But this disease can be controlled by changes in diet and lifestyle, and drugs if needed, to reduce risk. Read about more than 70 easy ways to prevent diabetes.