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Alzheimer’s: Cognitive reserve can affect likelihood of disease – how to make it better

Alzheimer's: Dr Chris discusses the early signs of condition

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Developments in scientific understanding have shown that dementia is a disease and one that can be treated, even prevented.

Today millions of pounds a year is going into new dementia studies, programmes, and trials.

From these scientists hope that a treatment will emerge, one that could help to slow, prevent or potentially one day, cure one or more types of dementia.

Alzheimer’s is one of those types.

Charity Alzheimer’s UK has some guidance and tips on what can increase or decrease a person’s risk of developing dementia.

One of these risk factors is cognitive reserve.

Cognitive reserve is “a person’s ability to cope with disease in their brain. It is built up by keeping the brain active over a person’s lifetime”.

“The more cognitive reserve a person has, the longer it takes for any diseases in their brain to cause problems with everyday tasks. This means people with a larger cognitive reserve can delay the start of dementia symptoms for a longer period of time” says the charity.

Three factors that can lead to a smaller cognitive reserve are leaving education early, less job complexity, and social isolation.

Although a sizeable amount of a person’s cognitive reserve is built up during their early adulthood and childhood, it is still possible to grow it later in life.

Other risk factors for Alzheimer’s include ageing, genes, gender, sex, ethnicity, health conditions and diseases.

Lifestyle factors, including diet, can play a role too; a new study has established a greater level of specificity in this area.

Published last month and conducted by scientists from Osaka University in Japan, the study concluded: “Dietary fibre intake, especially soluble fibre, was inversely associated with risk of disabling dementia.”

This means the more soluble fibre is in a person’s diet the less likely they may be to develop dementia later in life.

However, soluble fibre isn’t a silver bullet, other factors such as exercise and other dementia risk factors will have an influence.

Nevertheless, it reaffirms the importance of diet on overall health as well as it’s long-term consequences.

Improving overall fitness can also help act as a potential preventative for dementia.

A recent study found a relationship between cardiorespiratory fitness and Alzheimer’s with the fittest participants found to be 30 percent less likely to develop Alzheimer’s than the least fit.

Dementia funding recently received a blow in the UK however, when the Conservatives broke an election promise to invest in a ‘dementia moonshot’ that would have seen a £160 million boost to dementia research.

Instead, funding is dropping £75 million with the government citing financial reasons for its decision.

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