Sept. 21 is World Alzheimer’s Day, a day to raise awareness about the devastating disease and its impact on patients, their families, and caregivers.
Alzheimer’s is the most common type of dementia, affecting some 44 million people worldwide.
Alzheimer’s may seem to strike randomly, but some factors can increase or decrease your risk of developing it. Some of those factors we can change, and some we can’t.
Every 65 seconds, someone in the United States develops Alzheimer’s, and nearly two-thirds of them are women.
By age 65, one in five women will be diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease.
Conditions that affect the heart and blood vessels may also boost your risk. These include heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, stroke, and high cholesterol.
Research also shows people who use anti-anxiety drugs may be at an increased risk for dementia. A lack of quality sleep may also play a role.
Researchers at Harvard found people who slept fewer than five hours per night were twice as likely to develop dementia.
Air pollution might be another culprit, as a study found that older adults who lived in areas with a high concentration of air pollution were 1.4-times more likely to have dementia than those who lived in areas with clean air.
The World Health Organization estimates that smoking may be responsible for 14% of dementia cases worldwide.
New research suggests seniors who’ve had COVID-19 may also face a higher risk. They were more likely to be diagnosed with Alzheimer’s within a year compared to those without a documented COVID infection.
Researchers say inflammation caused by the virus could be to blame.
“We were a little bit surprised how much of an increased hazard there was for developing Alzheimer’s disease in such a short period of time,” said Case Western Reserve Researcher, Dr. Pamela Davis.