A study taken up by researchers of University of California, San Francisco, which was presented in Paris at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference, focuses on the impact of behavior and habits on the Alzheimer’s. Factors such as a sedentary lifestyle, high blood pressure, obesity, smoking, diabetes, depression and lack of high education were considered for the study. According to statistics, 5.3 million people in United States and 34 million people all over the world suffer from this problem.
A mathematical model was used to cumulate the effects of behaviors and lifestyle on occurrence of Alzheimer’s. It was found that by bringing 10% change in lifestyle, 1.1 million cases can be prevented worldwide. If percentage of lifestyle changes is increased by 25%, over 3 million people can be saved from the disease.
The researchers have emphasized that the results of the study are purely mathematical and require scientific correlation. Professor of Psychiatry, Dr. Kristine Yaffe, who is one of the authors of the study, has said that the study is not definitive and it has been made under the assumption that these factors are “casually related”. Dr. Laura Fratiglioni, the director of Aging Research Center, Sweden, wrote in an editorial published in Lancet Neurology that the study is valuable but is largely theoretical.
Alzheimer’s research still has a long way to go since it requires years of monitoring the effect of lifestyle, both comprehensively and each isolated habit and its effects on thousands of people before arriving at conclusive evidence.
In 2010, experts from National Institutes of Health pointed out that there is no proof that is even moderately convincing about the effect of lifestyle on reduction of Alzheimer’s risk. They said that the only conclusive proof regarding Alzheimer’s is the fact that a herb called gingko biloba has no effect in prevention of Alzheimer’s. The only things that have moderate evidence are that drugs used to treat dementia do not reduce risk of Alzheimer’s and that progestins and estrogens that are used in menopause therapy and gene ApoE4 do increase risk of the disease. In retaliation, chief medical and scientific officer of the Alzheimer’s Association, William Thies, said that although proofs are lacking, the data is “pretty good” for many studies.
The study in question was based on evaluating the depth of existing research and the scope of risks. As per their model for United States, 21% of Alzheimer’s cases are due to sedentary lifestyle, 15% due to depression, 7% due to obesity, 7% due to low education and 3% due to diabetes. Worldwide results varied, where 19% cases were attributed to low education, 13% to sedentary lifestyle and 2% to obesity.
Experts said that if such studies can motivate people to make changes in their lifestyle, then they are useful. Lifestyle changes, although doubtful in reducing risk of Alzheimer’s, do reduce risk of heart ailments and cancer.