Back to Top Skip to main content

Years in the making: How the risk for Alzheimer’s disease can be reduced

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 5.5 million Americans, up to 1.7 percent of the population, may have Alzheimer’s disease. Symptoms such as memory problems, impaired reasoning or judgment, vision or spatial issues, and difficulty finding words can indicate early stages of the disease. (U.S. Army graphic) According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 5.5 million Americans, up to 1.7 percent of the population, may have Alzheimer’s disease. Symptoms such as memory problems, impaired reasoning or judgment, vision or spatial issues, and difficulty finding words can indicate early stages of the disease. (U.S. Army graphic)

Recommended Content:

Mental Health Care | Mental Wellness

From forgetting names to repeating questions, or having trouble remembering a recent event, growing older presents some challenges for an aging mind. But these symptoms can be an indication of something much more serious: Alzheimer’s disease.

Army Maj. Abraham Sabersky, a staff neurosurgeon at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, said Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia and the sixth leading cause of death for Americans.

“The health of our service members and veterans is the paramount mission of the Military Health System,” said Sabersky. “Given Alzheimer's prevalence in the general population, I believe that it is important that we highlight the lifestyle modifications that can prevent this debilitating illness.”

Alzheimer’s is a progressive disease that affects the brain’s ability to retain new information. The result is often noticed as “memory problems.” The National Institute of Aging, or NIA, defines the disease in three stages: mild, moderate, and severe. Symptoms develop slowly but get worse over time.

As early symptoms begin to appear, people can seem healthy but may have trouble with processing, remembering, or showing good judgment. According to the NIA, some emerging signs of Alzheimer’s include memory loss, getting lost in familiar settings, difficulty with money and bills, and taking longer to complete everyday tasks. The disease can become severe enough to limit a person’s ability to carry on a conversation or respond to the surrounding environment, said Sabersky.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said an estimated 5.5 million Americans were living with Alzheimer’s disease in 2017. Risk factors include aging, diabetes, high blood pressure, smoking, and family history. The CDC said symptoms usually begin after age 60, but Alzheimer’s disease likely starts a decade or more before problems become apparent to others.

“There appears to be a link between repeated head injuries and certain forms of dementia, which can overlap with the symptoms of Alzheimer's,” said Sabersky, referring to a 2014 study published by the American Academy of Neurology. The Department of Veterans Affairs estimates that more than 750,000 veterans have Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia, he added

“Veterans who experienced brain trauma in the course of their service can be at higher risk for developing the disease,” said Sabersky. “The diagnosis PTSD has also been associated with an increased risk of developing dementia later in life.”

While no cure has been found, various types of medication are available to help lessen symptoms and improve quality of life. Sabersky said extensive interest in the subject has led to new research findings being released consistently over time.

Army Maj. Joetta Khan, registered dietitian at Walter Reed, said risk factors for Alzheimer’s disease and dementia are similar to heart disease.

“There is a growing body of evidence that diet, exercise, and other interactions within one’s environment could alter brain health and mental function,” said Khan. Exercise seems to play a relevant role in brain health. Many observational studies have shown a decreased risk of dementia in people who exercise, she added.

Healthy lifestyle habits, including exercise, proper nutrition, sleep, stress management, and being active, have shown the greatest benefit for preventing and slowing the progression of Alzheimer's, said Sabersky.

“Keeping physically active and eating a balanced diet should be a priority with aging,” said Khan, adding that although bodies begin to slow down, they are influenced by behaviors. “Understanding the connection between a healthy lifestyle and brain health is essential to increasing not only our quantity (years) of life, but also the quality of those years.”

You also may be interested in...

Mental Health Professionals

Congressional Testimony
11/26/2019

S. 3129, SAC Report for FY 2019, 115-290, Pg. 211

Recommended Content:

Mental Health Care | Mental Wellness

Are you sad or are you SAD?

Article
11/20/2019
Some individuals suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), also referred to as Depressive Disorder. As the name suggests, it’s a form of depression that occurs during the seasonal change to winter. (U.S. Air Force photo by Trevor Cokley)

In the U.S., SAD is estimated to affect 10 million people

Recommended Content:

Mental Wellness

Suicide Prevention spotlight: Military behavioral health technicians

Article
10/1/2019
Senior Airman Brandon Haag goes through new patient paperwork, Feb. 9, 2015, at the Mental Health clinic on Scott Air Force Base, Ill. A typical protocol when a new patient comes in is getting to know the background history of the patient to help them and the provider they will see know what will help in a crisis or difficulty. Haag is a 375th Medical Group mental health technician. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Erica Crossen)

Suicide prevention is aided by behavioral health technicians in many settings

Recommended Content:

Mental Wellness | Suicide Prevention

New clinical recommendations on cognitive rehabilitation for TBI released

Article
6/24/2019
Dr. Gregory Johnson (right), Tripler Concussion Clinic medical director, has Army Spc. Andrew Karamatic, Department of Medicine combat medic, follow his finger with his eyes during a neurologic exam at Tripler Army Medical Center, Honolulu. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Christopher Hubenthal)

Cognitive rehabilitation focuses on improving thinking and communication skills

Recommended Content:

Mental Health Care | Traumatic Brain Injury | Mental Wellness

Practicing yoga to stimulate the mind, body, spirit

Article
6/21/2019
Dr. Bhagwan Bahroo, staff psychiatrist, demonstrates a deep-breathing posture as he leads a weekly yoga class for Psychiatry Continuity Service Program participants at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. (DoD photo by Leigh Culbert)

Programs at Walter Reed incorporate yoga basics to promote healing

Recommended Content:

Mental Wellness | Mental Health Care

DoD officials urge troops to seek mental health help without fear

Article
5/30/2019
One problem that may contribute to suicide numbers is a reticence to seek assistance from mental health providers due to fears that such help may damage careers, especially when it comes to security clearances. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Demetrio Montoya)

Solving suicide is a shared challenge in both the military and civilian societies

Recommended Content:

Mental Health Care | Mental Wellness

Stress relief a touch screen away

Article
5/29/2019
Dr. Tim Hoyt, chief of the DHA Connected Health Branch, described Breathe2Relax and the Virtual Hope Box as coping tools in the pockets of deployed service members. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Ryan Lackey)

Help is within reach with military apps

Recommended Content:

Mental Health Care | Mental Wellness

Mental Health Care in the MHS

Congressional Testimony
5/24/2019

HR 5515, HASC Report for FY 2019, 115-676, Pg. 132-133

Recommended Content:

Mental Health Care

Dan Pelton: Embedded Behavioral Health Provider

Video
5/15/2019
Dan Pelton: Embedded Behavioral Health Provider

Clinical Psychologist Dan Pelton deployed as an embedded behavioral health provider during Operation Enduring Freedom

Recommended Content:

Mental Health Care

Breaking the pain cycle

Article
4/9/2019
Ashley Blake, an acupuncture nurse at Naval Hospital Pensacola’s Pain Management Clinic, treats a patient with Battlefield Acupuncture (BFA), one of many opioid alternatives offered at many treatment facilities in the Military Health System. BFA consists of inserting five tiny and sterile 2 mm needles into specific points of the ear where they can remain for up to three days. (U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Brannon Deugan)

Live in agony or risk addiction? MHS pain management initiatives offer options

Recommended Content:

Prescription Monitoring Program | Mental Wellness | Mental Health Care | Substance Abuse | Physical Disability | Warrior Care | Opioid Safety | Pain Management

Study's focus: Mending hearts broken by deaths of military loved ones

Article
2/19/2019
Young military family members at a Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors Good Grief Camp in Denver, Colorado, created this collage to memorialize their lost loved ones. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Arielle Vasquez)

Military tests virtual programs for adapting to grief

Recommended Content:

Mental Wellness | Mental Health Care

It's complicated: Our relationship with social media

Article
2/13/2019
An Army health care provider loads the T2 Mood Tracker mobile app on a mobile device for a demonstration for his patients. (DoD photo)

Social media can help connect and reconnect people; however, it may increase feelings of isolation or remind people of what they don’t have

Recommended Content:

Mental Health Care | Connected Health

Technology Solutions for Psychological Health

Congressional Testimony
2/1/2019

HR 3219, HAC Report FY 2018, 115-219, Pg. 287-288

Recommended Content:

Mental Health Care

Traumatic Brain Injury/Psychological Health

Congressional Testimony
1/25/2019

S. 3000, SAC Report for FY 2017, 114-263, Pg. 193

Recommended Content:

Traumatic Brain Injury | Mental Health Care

Mental Health Assessments for Members of the Armed Forces

Congressional Testimony
1/11/2019

HR 3979, NDAA Report for FY 2015, Sec. 701

Recommended Content:

Mental Wellness
<< < 1 2 3 4 5  ... > >> 
Showing results 1 - 15 Page 1 of 6

DHA Address: 7700 Arlington Boulevard | Suite 5101 | Falls Church, VA | 22042-5101

Some documents are presented in Portable Document Format (PDF). A PDF reader is required for viewing: Download a PDF Reader or learn more about PDFs.