LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Most parents realize lifestyle choices affect their children’s formative years. In fact, parents’ unhealthy choices follow children into old age, even predisposing them to Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.
Alzheimer’s is a chronic disease that develops over several decades before symptoms such as memory loss and confusion become apparent. Although research has proven a significant genetic influence in the development of Alzheimer’s, studies have shown environment and lifestyle are risk factors too.
University of Louisville Professor of Neurology Robert Friedland suggests in an article published today in the Journal of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics that pediatricians must educate parents about the end-of-life consequences of their early parenting choices.
“Childhood is the period of life when lifestyle patterns such as diet, physical and mental activity and risk behaviors like smoking are established,” Friedland explained. “Pediatricians are uniquely placed to help children and families develop healthy lifestyles in early life that allow their later years to be full of memory and meaning.”
Researchers have proven relationships between Alzheimer’s disease and inflammation as well as conditions such as hypertension, heart disease and diabetes. Poor eating and exercise habits, smoking, head injury, lead poisoning and exposure to other dangerous chemicals are all linked to Alzheimer’s disease. Conversely, education seems to be protective against Alzheimer’s disease.
The incidence of Alzheimer’s disease doubles every five years after age 65. That fact, combined with the world’s aging population, suggests there will be a monumental increase in Alzheimer’s disease over the next 50 years, unless steps are taken.
“There is evidence that public health measures can be effectively applied. This is urgent if we are to bring new generations into healthier middle age and lower risk of dementia at later ages,” Friedland said in his commentary.