Jessica Caldwell, Ph.D., director of the Women’s Alzheimer’s Movement Prevention Center at Cleveland Clinic, discusses preventative measures and risk factors for Alzheimer’s disease in women.
Jessica Caldwell, Ph.D.
Director, Women’s Alzheimer’s Movement Prevention Center, Cleveland Clinic
Why is it crucial that we prioritize brain health?
It is critical to prioritize our brain health because, in many ways, how well we do as we age is under our control. Studies have even shown that up to 40% of current cases of Alzheimer’s might have been prevented through changing lifestyle. Building healthy habits when we are young can provide immediate health benefits and increase our odds of keeping our thinking sharp as we age.
What risk factors should women be on alert for regarding Alzheimer’s?
Women need to watch out for medical risks of Alzheimer’s. High blood pressure, diabetes, and obesity do not usually bring brain health to mind, but they are all risks for Alzheimer’s. Women with these conditions, or who have family members with these conditions, should actively treat or act to avoid them. I would also encourage women to talk to their doctor when they experience menopause symptoms. Estrogen loss can change memory in the short term, and for women at risk for Alzheimer’s, may even impact future memory problems.
What are some lifestyle habits and preventative steps that have proved beneficial for promoting brain health, especially for women?
Today, research shows that changing lifestyle can improve brain health. Specific examples include exercising regularly, eating a healthy diet, nurturing your social circle, and making sure you regularly get learning experiences.
As of today, what are the top treatment options available to people and their caregivers affected by Alzheimer’s?
There is no cure for Alzheimer’s, but if you or a family member are diagnosed, there are several types of treatments that can help. Many people choose to take a medication that supports the brain’s memory circuits and can keep memory looking good longer. We also now have one treatment that can take Alzheimer’s-related protein buildup out of the brain, but even this treatment is not a cure. The other top treatment that people may not consider is simply putting in place the same lifestyle habits that can help people avoid memory problems. Even in Alzheimer’s disease, staying physically, socially, and mentally active can make a difference.
As the director of the Women’s Alzheimer’s Movement Prevention Center at Cleveland Clinic, what do you hope to see come out of this work?
I hope our clinic reaches more women and gives them the hope and tools they need to address risks for Alzheimer’s that we can control. I hope our research adds proof that Alzheimer’s prevention approaches work and leads to more widespread use by physicians as well as reimbursement by insurance companies.