Why Should I Worry About Alzheimer’s Disease, If I’m Young?
Most of us still consider Alzheimer’s disease an older person’s disease. Developing the disease has to do with clumps of a protein called amyloid, that tend to build up in the brain, ultimately causing the symptoms we now recognize as Alzheimer’s disease. New research suggests that possible signs of this disease can be found in the brains of individuals as young as 20 years old.
This new study found that small groups of these amyloid clumps were present in the brains of otherwise young, healthy adults. It’s not finding amyloid per say, but rather the “clumping of the amyloid” that is associated with eventual development of Alzheimer’s disease. Significant numbers of these clumps are typically found in symptomatic older adults. The study isolated this surprising finding in younger subjects, who were part of group of individuals who had died and whose brains were donated and studied at the Alzheimer’s Disease Centre Brain Bank at Northwestern University.
Despite the identification of these amyloid clumps, these younger, healthy brains would be expected to have normal cognition for many, many years. So the researchers theorize that there may be some trigger later in life that triggers the process of cell death. It is known that tau, another protein, has been identified as a trigger that spreads the disease in the brain.
We are now living longer, which means that more people may develop Alzheimer’s disease. Currently 5.2 million Americans live with the diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease. There may also be genetic mutations that predispose certain individuals to develop amyloid clumping during the teen or young adult years, though more research is needed. This new study suggests that more research and possibly earlier interventions in younger individuals should be considered.
A separate new study suggests that watching too many hours of TV might damage your brain and raise the risk of Alzheimer’s disease. The research found that four or more hours of TV watching daily impacted the cognitive performance of middle age subjects. The study tracked people for 25 years, starting in young adulthood, and those with the worst physical activity levels (TV watching is associated with a sedentary lifestyle) scored the worst. The lead researcher did confirm that reducing “sitting time” and embracing exercise could help to reverse or intercept the impact of the TV watching and the associated cognitive decline that may develop.
To reduce your risk factors:
• Follow a Mediterranean-style diet
• Exercise a minimum of 30-60 minutes most days of the week
• Don’t smoke and drink alcohol in moderation
• Stay mentally sharp by taking education classes throughout your life
• Limit TV watching and your overall sedentary time