Your Risk Level for Alzheimer’s

Your gender and family history can influence your risk of Alzheimer’s, but many risk factors associated with the development of Alzheimer’s often are within our control

A caregiver working with nursing home patient

© Cecilie_Arcurs| Getty Images Plus

People joke about “senior moments,” those times when your brain goes blank mid-sentence, you forget your own phone number, or simple math becomes confusing. Perhaps you forget the names of friends, misplace things frequently, or rely on an extensive array of sticky notes, calendars, and lists to remember everyday activities. A little cognitive decline may be normal as we age, but it does not mean a drastic decline in brain health or dementia is inevitable.

Nevertheless, even a little memory loss can be upsetting and embarrassing, causing some people to withdraw from social circles. It can affect job performance, too. It may even cause the loss of a job. Difficulty remembering things can put a tremendous strain on personal relationships, like in a marriage. When brain function suffers, you may feel like you are losing yourself and your connection to everyone in your world.

Memory loss and cognitive impairment—difficulty with thought processes like learning that significantly impact our quality of life and independence—may signal problems with brain health and an increased risk for dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

Alzheimer’s disease begins to develop in the brain—causing extensive and irreversible damage—10 to 20 years before symptoms appear. Women, those with a family history of Alzheimer’s, and those with African American or Hispanic ethnicity are at the highest risk.

Your gender and family history can influence your risk of Alzheimer’s, but many risk factors associated with the development of Alzheimer’s often are within our control, including:

  • Chronic stress and high adrenal cortisol
  • Depression D
  • iabetes and obesity
  • Diets high in saturated fats
  • Diets low in vitamins and omega-3 fatty acids
  • Environmental toxins
  • Extremely low-fat diets, which cause a deficiency in acetylcholine, an important neurotransmitter (brain chemical)
  • Head trauma
  • Hormonal deficiencies and imbalances
  • Hypothyroidism Inflammatory disorders, such as hypertension, vascular disease, gut inflammation, and autoimmune disease
  • Lack of exercise Lack of mental stimulation
  • Minimal social interaction
  • Neurotransmitter imbalances
  • Physical inactivity
  • Poor diet
  • Sleep disorders
  • Unhealthy habits, like smoking or excessive alcohol

While the brain has amazing abilities to compensate so that you can continue to function normally despite these assaults, they compound over time. Eventually, your brain’s health is compromised, making it vulnerable to inflammation and degeneration.

The ideal time to implement dietary and lifestyle strategies to improve brain health is before symptoms appear, although studies show that even after the initial signs of cognitive impairment have set in, you can make beneficial changes. Parents who work to optimize and preserve brain health in their 30s and 40s do themselves and their children a tremendous favor by following healthy habits that will serve them into their old age.

To learn more about Alzheimer’s, purchase Natural Remedies for Memory Loss from

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Jami Cooley, RN, CNWC

Jami Cooley is a Certified Nutrition and Wellness Consultant as well as a Registered Nurse, but her interest in integrative medicine grew out of her experience in conventional medicine. Cooley … Read More

View all posts by Jami Cooley, RN, CNWC

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