In the United States, one in nine people over the age of 65 suffer from Alzheimer's. Despite this high statistic, it seems that it isn't impossible to protect yourself from this highly common form of dementia.
According to research presented at the Alzheimer's Association's International Conference in Toronto, two studies determined that people who are involved in work that requires complex thinking and interactions with other people seem less likely to develop the disease.
Alzheimer's is a type of dementia that causes memory loss, thinking, and behavioral problems. The symptoms tend to get worse over time with the disease currently having no known cure to counter it.
One of the studies observed how complex work and social interactions combatted the effects of a unhealthy diet and cerebrovascular disease on cognition.
The study revealed that people with occupations such as law, social work, education, engineering, and doctors of medicine had the highest levels of protection against Alzheimer's. Meanwhile laborers, cashiers, grocery shelf stockers, and machine operators had the lowest levels.
The research also showed that a diet full of red and processed meats, white bread, potatoes, pre-packaged foods, and sweets, also known as a "Western" diet, is associated with mental decline. People can counteract the negative effect on their body by having a mentally stimulating lifestyle.
"You can never totally forget about the importance of a good diet," said Rotman Research Institute fellow Matthew Parrott. "In terms of your risk of dementia, you are better able to accommodate some of the brain damage that is associated with consuming this kind of diet."
The second study showed that people with an increased number of white spots that appear on brain scans, also known as white matter hyperintensities (WMHs), were able to handle WMH-related damage if they worked at jobs with people.
The recently presented data supported the previously found idea that people involved with a more lively lifestyles have a higher chance at having a better cognitive state later on in their life.
"Physical activity has been reasonably well-documented, but with intellectual activity the data gets pretty soft," said Mayo Clinic Alzheimer's Disease Research Center director Ronald Petersen. "What it may mean is the development of Alzheimer's disease or cognitive change with aging need not be a passive process... Staying intellectually active whether it be your job or other kinds of activities may actually be beneficial."