The brain is by far the most complex organ of the human body and it is the primary organ that defines who we are as a person. It is comprised of many different parts which all work in unison to keep us alive and functioning well. It influences all aspect of our health and its health and function is essential throughout all life stages.
Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia, affecting up to 70% of people with dementia. It contributes to progressive mental deterioration due to generalised weakening of the brain. It is usually slow developing and results in poor memory, inability to think clearly and reasonably, and behaviour can become quite aggressive. As a result, Alzheimer’s affects all aspects of day to day life.
Alzheimer’s typically destroys the communication connections and mechanisms within the brain as well, eventually destroying all aspects of the brain’s structure and functionality and as a result, it can prove to be fatal as the brain essentially stops working and from this, organ failure results.
Oestrogen has a strong influence on brain health and somewhat protects it from ageing. It can assist in preventing the build up of plaque or, hardening of the brain that is quite often seen in Alzheimer’s disease. As oestrogen starts to decline from the latter half of perimenopause to menopause, the brain becomes more vulnerable to these changes. There is some evidence to suggest that supplementing with oestrogen may prevent the onset and progression of Alzheimer’s disease however, larger scale studies are required to further confirm this. (1)
It is essential that lifestyle is conducive to optimising and looking after the brain to assist in the prevention of mental health conditions as well as Alzheimer’s and dementia. Being brain healthy is particularly important once you reach middle age, as quite often, it is during this stage in life that changes to the brain can start to occur. There is no guarantee that implementing certain dietary and lifestyle changes can prevent or cure dementia however, there are known risk factors that can be corrected. (2)
To live a brain healthy life means to not only look after your brain but your whole body and your heart.
In Australia, 1 in 30 Australians aged 70-74 years have dementia, increasing to 1 in 8 aged 80-84 years and 1 in 3 of those aged 90-94 years. (3)
There are many risk factors for dementia and Alzheimer’s. Some of these can be controlled and others can’t. Factors such as age and genetic predisposition cannot be changed, and nor can they be avoided.
Mental and social activity is crucial for brain health. Exercising and challenging the brain with various activities and social interaction can assist with building new brain cells and strengthen connections between each of the cells. This provides a reserve of cells to counteract the loss and destruction of older brain cells. (4)
There is evidence to suggest that excessive alcohol consumption can damage brain cells and in turn, increase the risk of developing Alzheimer’s.
The cardiovascular system is also an important piece that can be corrected to reduce the risk of developing brain issues. Elevated blood pressure, obesity, chronically high cholesterol, the development of type 2 diabetes in middle life and smoking have all been found to increase the chances of developing dementia and Alzheimer’s.
Currently, there is no treatment available to prevent or treat Alzheimer’s and therefore living a brain healthy life and ensuring your oestrogen levels are balanced, are crucial to assist in reducing and avoiding the risk factors involved with dementia.
- Tang M et al. Effect of Oestrogen during menopause on risk and age at onset of Alzheimer’s disease. 1996. 348:9025. 429-32. The Lancet
- Ashby-Mitchell K, Burns R, Shaw J, Anstey K. Proportion of dementia in Australia explained by common modifiable risk factors. 2017. 9:11. Alzheimers Res Ther.