Few things are more terrifying than the idea of your own mind betraying you, but that’s essentially what happens to those who develop dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. It would be less terrifying if we had an effective treatment to cure (or even prevent) Alzheimer’s disease, but at the moment, no such treatment exists.
Even so, many people still want to know if they might be at risk for developing Alzheimer’s. As the saying goes, knowledge is power, and if you know what to expect, there are a few things you can do to prepare yourself, even if it’s just getting your affairs in order and making sure you have a good power of attorney you know will represent your interests if the worst were to happen. So, let’s take a look at some of the most common risk factors for developing Alzheimer’s disease:
Although early onset Alzheimer’s provides some exceptions to the rule, Alzheimer’s and dementia primarily affect people over the age of 65, and their risk of developing Alzheimer’s doubles every five years after they turn 65. By the time people reach their 80s, they have a one in six chance of developing Alzheimer’s.
Although no one knows why as of yet, we do know that women over the age of 65 are twice as likely to develop Alzheimer’s as men. Part of it might have to do with the loss of estrogen women experience after going through menopause.
Although we know that someone is more likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease if someone in their family has or had Alzheimer’s, only early onset Alzheimer’s has been definitively identified as something that gets passed down from one generation to the next.
There are more than 20 genes that have been identified as playing a role in increasing or decreasing someone’s risk of developing Alzheimer’s later in life and researchers are still working out which genes play what role in the development or prevention of Alzheimer’s. Nothing is inevitable – not even Alzheimer’s disease – so if you know you have some of the genes that put you at a higher risk for developing Alzheimer’s, you’ll want to take extra care to maintain as healthy a lifestyle as possible to try to reduce your chances of developing Alzheimer’s later in life.
People who maintain a healthy lifestyle, especially in their middle ages and older, are somewhat less likely to develop Alzheimer’s compared to those who don’t maintain a healthy lifestyle. This means exercising regularly, eating a balanced diet, maintaining a healthy weight, avoiding tobacco, and moderating their alcohol consumption. It also means staying mentally and socially active.
If you have certain medical conditions, you might be at a higher risk for developing Alzheimer’s. The riskiest conditions include diabetes, stroke and heart disease, high blood pressure, as well as high cholesterol and obesity, especially later in life.
If you have any other questions about dementia and/or Alzheimer’s, whether it’s regarding your own risk factors, or a loved one who is already exhibiting symptoms of mental decay, we’re here to help.
When you consider risk factors for seniors, you might think about things like an increased risk of falling and sustaining a serious injury, increased risk of disease, and decreased mental and physical capabilities. While those are all serious concerns for older Americans, there’s another danger they face you probably haven’t considered: loneliness.
Loneliness as a Health Risk
Experts have known for a long time now that loneliness can be a predictor of everything from depression to heart disease, and while many people have pointed out that our society as a whole is becoming increasingly isolated, older Americans are especially vulnerable to loneliness.
A recent study conducted by the National Poll on Healthy Aging surveyed more than 2,000 Americans between the ages of 50 and 80 and found that more than a third of them reported feeling a lack of companionship at least some of the time, with 27% saying they feel isolated. Almost 30% reported socializing once a week or less. The women surveyed were more likely than men to report a lack of companionship.
Since it’s well known that isolation and poor health tend to go hand in hand, it’s no wonder that 28% of the respondents who reported feeling isolated also reported their physical health as either fair or poor, whereas only 13% of those surveyed who did not feel isolated reported their physical health as either fair or poor.
Those who reported feeling isolated were also much more likely to rate their mental health as either fair or poor. This is not surprising, since the connection between mental health and physical health as been well established for many years now.
Loneliness and Decreased Life Expectancy
Rates of suicide among older Americans have been on the rise lately and there’s no doubt that isolation is a major factor. Whether from poor health or suicide, experts estimate that isolation is linked to shortened life spans as much as smoking, and even more than being overweight or sedentary.
On the surface, it might seem like loneliness is something that’s easy to fix, but the truth is that, while living alone was certainly connected to an increased risk of loneliness, some respondents who live with other people still report feeling lonely if they don’t have a strong emotional connection to the people who live with them. Living with their children or grandchildren might seem like a good idea, but it can end up enhancing feelings of loneliness and isolation by highlighting the differences between generations.
How Assisted Living Can Help
While many people might think of assisted living as something people only need when they can no longer do certain things for themselves, an often-overlooked benefit of assisted living is a sense of community. Living with people who are close to your own age is a benefit that should never be underestimated. And many assisted living communities (including Stillwater Senior Living) offer programs throughout the week to help residents get to know each other and form strong bonds that will last them the rest of their lives.
If you have any questions about the wide array of benefits assisted living can offer you or your loved one, please reach out now because we love nothing more than talking about all the ways we help our residents.
Here at Stillwater Senior Living, we treat our residents like family. Our apartments include studio, one bedroom, and two bedroom suites, and we are pet friendly. They are designed with security features, maximum accessibility, and include walk-out patois with a full range of amenities for the entire family.
CONTACT US today for more information and a tour of our beautiful state-of-the-art community.