Women’s health has rightfully gained a prominent place in current political discussions. Yet one important facet of women’s health often remains overlooked: the impact of Alzheimer’s disease on women.
The Shriver Report: A Woman’s Nation Takes on Alzheimer’s (released in 2010 by the Alzheimer’s Association in conjunction with Maria Shriver) pointed out that women represent the majority both Alzheimer’s patients and Alzheimer’s caregivers.
The Alzheimer’s Association 2014 Alzheimer’s Disease Facts and Figures report noted that women have an estimated 1 in 6 lifetime risk of developing Alzheimer’s at age 65, nearly double the risk of their male counterparts. In comparison, women’s risk of developing breast cancer is only 1 in 11.
Although women live longer on average than men, female longevity does not explain the prevalence of Alzheimer’s among women. According to an article in alzheimers.net, genetic factors play a role. Women are twice as likely to carry the gene ApoE4 which contributes to the disease. Heart health may also play a role in women’s likelihood to develop Alzheimer’s.
Men are more likely than women to die of heart disease earlier in life. Some health researchers believe the surviving men have healthier hearts, which may protect them from Alzheimer’s. Women, on the other hand, tend to have heart related issues show up later in life. These vascular issues have an impact on memory and cognition.
Also, women are encouraged from an early age to ignore their own discomforts and illness in order to care for others. Thus they may miss their own early onset signals of Alzheimer’s while remaining highly attentive to the health of family members.
Early preventive action can help women prevent Alzheimer’s. Women can decrease their personal risk of developing Alzheimer’s through these 6 steps:
1. Enhance nutrition through a balanced diet emphasizing fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean protein. The Alzheimer’s Association recommendations include limiting refined sugar intake and cutting down on foods with high levels of saturated fats and cholesterol.
2. Practice meditation to lower blood pressure and reduce stress. Studies have shown many styles of meditation, including TM, have a beneficial effect on health.
3. Develop social support networks. Caregiver support groups are very important for coping with the stress of helping an ailing spouse or other family member. Longevity support groups can help reduce feelings of loneliness and isolation that often accompany aging.
4. Exercise regularly. Exercise can mean anything from gentle walking to yoga classes (which often also offer meditation instruction) to a fun and invigorating dance session. Choose an exercise which suits your body, and go at your own pace. Movement helps rejuvenate both your body and mind.
5. Enjoy life. Do things that make you happy. Watch funny movies. Spend time with people you like. Smell the roses.
6. Learn some basic techniques of CranioSacral Therapy (or seek an appointment with a CST practitioner) Research shows that people with Alzheimer’s experience significantly lowered levels cerebral spinal fluid (75% less) compared with normal adults. CST is a gentle, hands on treatment which helps increase the flow of cerebral spinal fluid, resulting in clearer thinking, ability to remember decreased agitation.
Remember: The underlying philosophy of alternative health is empowering people to improve their own health through education and lifestyle changes. That’s why I offer classes for laypersons with no medical background to learn how to use CST to prevent or treat Alzheimer’s. You can learn basic CST techniques to protect yourself or a family member from Alzheimer’s.
For more information about Michal’s mission to prevent Alzheimer’s and find educational resources, go to www.preventingalzheimers.com