Following University of Tennessee Lady Vols Coach Pat Summitt’s recent diagnosis of early onset dementia, Alzheimer’s type, people throughout the Vol Nation have a heightened awareness of the disease. Many are wondering if they’re at greater risk of contracting Alzheimer’s and what they can do to prevent it.

Advancing age is the single greatest risk factor, followed by family history and genetics. While you can’t do anything to change those risk factors, a recent study suggests that treating high blood pressure and other vascular risk factors may reduce the risk of mild cognitive impairment progressing to Alzheimer’s disease.

For the study, researchers enrolled 837 men and women, age 55 and older with mild cognitive impairment (MCI), a mental condition less severe than dementia but one that increases the risk of progression to Alzheimer’s.

Of the 837 enrollees, 650 completed the entire study. At the start of the study, 414 of the participants had other vascular risk factors such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol or diabetes. Over the course of the five-year study, 298 progressed to Alzheimer’s, while the others remained with mild cognitive impairment. Participants with vascular risk factors were twice as likely to develop Alzheimer’s compared to those without.

The good news is that study participants who received treatment for all their vascular risk factors were 39 percent less likely to get Alzheimer’s disease over the five-year period than those who left their conditions untreated. Those who treated only some of their risk factors reduced the risk of progression to Alzheimer’s by 26 percent.

While pointing out that the study is only observational and therefore does not prove cause and effect, the researchers  said: ”Active intervention for vascular risk factors might reduce progression in MCI to Alzheimer’s disease dementia.”

Treating vascular risk factors is important for overall good health. Now, there’s another good reason for early intervention.

The Seven Warning Signs of Alzheimer’s Disease

1. Asking the same question repeatedly.

2. Repeating the same story, word for word, again and again.

3. Forgetting how to cook, or how to make repairs, or how to play cards – activities that were previously done with ease and regularity.

4. Losing one’s ability to pay bills or balance one’s checkbook.

5. Getting lost in familiar surroundings or misplacing household objects.

6. Neglecting to bathe or wearing the same clothes over and over again, while insisting baths have been taken and clothes are clean.

7. Relying on someone else, such as a spouse, to make decisions or answer questions previously handled themselves.

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