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General health may tell your Alzheimer's risk
July 13th, 2011
04:51 PM ET

General health may tell your Alzheimer's risk

Age and genetics are the two greatest known factors contributing to Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, but new research  is showing there may be some other surprising indicators.

“Our study suggests that rather than just paying attention to already known risk factors for dementia, such as diabetes or heart disease, keeping up with your general health may help reduce the risk for dementia,” said Kenneth Rockwood, M.D., of Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia, author of the study.

The study appears in the July 13 edition of Neurology, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology. Dr. Rockwood, along with other researchers from Dalhouise University in Nova Scotia, Canada followed over 7,000 people, 65 years and older and cognitively healthy. They evaluated them at the five-year mark and then again at 10 years for signs of dementia.

Instead of looking just at the brain,  Rockwood and his team look beyond.  “We wondered, what if we were to use only factors that are not known to be bad for the brain, but just bad in general?” he said.

Researchers evaluated the group based on an index that included 19 different health deficits frequently associated with aging. Some of these factors included arthritis, hearing problems, eyesight issues and denture fit. The higher the participant's score,  the less the healthy he or she was. It was the first time an evaluation of dementia using non-cognitive factors has ever been done.

After 10 years, 40 percent of the participants had died.  Of the participants left, 607 had developed Alzheimer’s or some other form of dementia, while an additional 677 participants had developed some other cognitive problem. The remaining 883 participants who were cognitively healthy were the subject who scored lowest, or healthiest, on the initial health index evaluation. Those who had died or had developed dementia or Alzheimer’s were among patients who had scored highest on their initial health index evaluations. Researchers also found that each health problem a participant had, made him or her 3% more likely to develop dementia over those who didn’t have the same problems.

While the study did not look at what are the root issues of dementia, the authors do believe that the connection between health and dementia bring up a new question of how to investigate dementia. They suggest looking at whether there are any connections between the remedies of older age ailments and dementia. But they do hope that by improving overall general health, people will be able to lessen the onset of dementia and Alzheimer’s in late life.


soundoff (20 Responses)
  1. mjh

    y no comments big brother put this article together like the world news isnt depressing enough

    July 13, 2011 at 18:26 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. mjh

    as for dementia the pollutaints and toxins are the health factors creating these long term medical effects the citizens are aware that these disease exist from long standing surroundings and major companies pollutting the enviorment i think i said it for all of us

    July 13, 2011 at 18:31 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. mjh

    didnt like the truth i have a copy

    July 13, 2011 at 18:32 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. mjh

    by the way were human beings not robots

    July 13, 2011 at 18:35 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. M3NTA7

    It makes sense to take a wholistic approach to the investigation. Interesting article and insights.

    July 13, 2011 at 18:41 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. Audrey mackenzie

    WE ALL KNOW THAT LIVING A HEALHLY LIFESTYLE . IS THE KEY TO AVOID ALOT OF DISEASES, AND the less Med we take unnecessary as we age also we are better off, so some of these Professionals and scientist that telling us to lead a healthy lifestyle are not telling some of us Seniors nothiing that we dont already know,but keeping the Brain active by reading, learning new hobbies and socializing is a big help. Staying from processed foods and eating like our grandparents who cooked from scratch, Our nursing homes and hospitals are not .

    July 13, 2011 at 18:48 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. Observer

    It's also been found that death is a direct result of having lived.

    July 13, 2011 at 19:59 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Tim

      You obviously don't have a family member suffering from dementia. Idiot.

      July 14, 2011 at 12:45 | Report abuse |
  8. seesaw

    One of the health factors the researchers looked at was how well their dentures fit? What does this have to do with dementia?

    July 13, 2011 at 20:12 | Report abuse | Reply
    • jimraytwn

      Possibly because loose fitting dentures would lead to a a range of a greater amount of bacteria in the mouth contributing to gastroenteritis and a propensity to cardiac problem, and a less healthy diet based on softer foods.

      July 17, 2011 at 17:28 | Report abuse |
  9. Due Tell

    essentially we must all take responsibility for our choice's & eating well, exercising & regular check ups will keep us in tune...God bless & deny stress

    July 14, 2011 at 00:23 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. lesliesmithy124

    Companies use "123 Samples" to distribute free samples and product samples to give consumers the opportunity to try their latest and greatest product lines.

    July 14, 2011 at 04:38 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. NoNewInformation

    Duh!

    July 14, 2011 at 07:52 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. Random

    Biogerintology is the solution in the long-run.Ageing is a disease in and of itself. It has not been solved by farimisuticle companies because people are making more money from its symptoms. It is not being worked on in earnest by independent agents because they were raised to feel that is it just a fact of life.

    July 14, 2011 at 07:55 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. Lindalou

    Instead of looking at what causes dementia, why don't they look at the elderly people that still have all their marbles and tell us what they do right. I've got to believe a lot of it is genetics. My mom had alzheimer's and so did grandma. Its in the cards unless they come up with a magic pill.

    July 14, 2011 at 09:00 | Report abuse | Reply
    • elle

      My mother smoked Pall Malls until we kids absolutely forbid her, ate red meat all the time. She never exercised that I can recall, a complete couch potato, overweight and full of chocolate ice cream. Now she is 92 years old and completely clear mentally. Only trouble, she treated me like dirt. I hope I inherit her health and resilience, but if I were capable of being that unkind to a kid, I would not be able to live with myself.

      July 17, 2011 at 23:32 | Report abuse |
  14. NGN

    There is no such thing as a "natural death". All death is caused by disease or trauma or some other unplanned factor. We are not "designed" or "evolved" to die. We die because it is a statistical certainty.

    July 14, 2011 at 12:11 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. Bobbie

    A sandwich with no filling – WHAT are the "19" factors that they studied? I want to know and I'll bet a lot of others who read the article want to know. I Googled it and I still don't have the info I want!

    July 14, 2011 at 12:52 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. Robbi

    I have all timers alztheheim and.......

    ..what was i getting at?

    July 14, 2011 at 14:58 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. medtravelmexico

    Great information on Alzheimer's and warning signs for assessing risk level. I maintain a blog which discusses the medical tourism industry - as well as general health and wellness content - as it pertains to Mexico and the world. I linked this article to my site, please take a look! http://www.medtravelmexico.org. I'm also on Twitter @MedTravelMexico. Thanks and have a great day!

    October 11, 2011 at 15:17 | Report abuse | Reply

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Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.