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Julie Hambleton
Julie Hambleton
March 27, 2024 ·  6 min read

Alzheimer’s May Stem From Modern Lifestyles, New study Suggests

The prevalence of Alzheimer’s disease, the most common form of dementia, has been steadily increasing in recent times. However, a new study suggests that this widespread dementia may be a consequence of modern environments and lifestyles. So what does this mean for you, someone who is living in this modern world? Let’s look at what we know so far about Alzheimer’s disease, how it may be connected to our modern lifestyles, and what you can do to prevent the onset of this illness.

Understanding Alzheimer’s Disease

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Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive neurological disorder that affects millions of people worldwide, causing memory loss, cognitive decline, and behavioral changes. First discovered by Dr. Alois Alzheimer in 1901, the disease predominantly affects individuals aged 65 and above, with the prevalence increasing with age. The exact cause of Alzheimer’s disease is unknown, but it is believed to be a combination of genetic, environmental, and lifestyle factors. The most common form of the disease is late-onset Alzheimer’s, which occurs after age 65 and accounts for about 90% of all cases. Early-onset Alzheimer’s affects individuals between ages 30-60 and accounts for less than 5% of cases. (1) The most common symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease are memory loss, confusion, and difficulty with language. Other symptoms include changes in personality and behavior, depression or anxiety, and difficulty performing everyday tasks. The disease progresses over time, with symptoms worsening as the brain cells die off.

Read More: Light and Sound Therapy Shows Potential for Treating Alzheimer’s Disease

The Study

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A recent study conducted at the University of Southern California delved into the ancient Greek and Roman medical texts to understand the presence of severe memory loss in historical societies. The researchers found that severe memory loss, akin to Alzheimer’s disease, was rarely mentioned 2,000 to 2,500 years ago.

This finding suggests that dementia, including Alzheimer’s, may be a disease of modern environments and lifestyles.

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(2) “The ancient Greeks had very, very few – but we found them – mentions of something that would be like mild cognitive impairment,” said first author and gerontologist Prof. Caleb Finch. “When we got to the Romans, and we uncovered at least four statements that suggest rare cases of advanced dementia; we can’t tell if it’s Alzheimer’s. So, there was a progression going from the ancient Greeks to the Romans.” (3) The researchers noted the rise in the number of mentions in Roman texts from the ancient Greek rule. They theorized that as the Roman population grew, and therefore cities became more densely populated, pollution also increased. On top of this, Romans used lead in many products, including water pipes, cooking pots, and they even put lead acetate into their wine to sweeten it. For a long time they were unknowingly poisoning themselves.

Not Just Greek and Roman Cultures Studied

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The research team didn’t only look at the ancient Greeks and Romans. They also studied an indigenous people of the Bolivian Amazon. Today, these people are known as the Tsimane Amerindians. Their pre-industrial culture meant that people had very physically active daily lives. This group had very low rates of dementia in comparison to other, less active cultures of similar time periods.“The Tsimane data, which is serious, is very valuable,” Finch said. “This is the best-documented large population of older people that have minimal dementia, all of which indicates that the environment is a huge determinant on dementia risk. They give us a template for asking these questions.”

Implications of the Findings

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The study’s findings have significant implications for our understanding of Alzheimer’s disease. It challenges the notion that Alzheimer’s has always been prevalent throughout history and suggests that our modern lifestyles could be contributing to its rise. By identifying these factors, we may be able to take preventive measures to reduce the incidence of this devastating disease in the future.

Read More: This 5-minute personality test that can determine your Alzheimer’s risk is shockingly accurate

5 Modern Issues That May Cause Alzheimer’s

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The more we study Alsheimer’s and dementia, the more we understand that prevention is key. Thankfully, regardless of your genetic background, prevention is largely within your control. While you may not necessarily be able to control certain factors, like environmental pollution (including second hand smoke), you can control your own lifestyle habits. These are the things for you to focus on. They will not only reduce your risk of developing Alzheimer’s, but also many other illnesses. (4)

1. Sedentary Lifestyle

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A sedentary lifestyle characterized by lack of physical activity and prolonged sitting has been linked to numerous health issues. These include obesity, cardiovascular problems, and now, a potential risk factor for Alzheimer’s. Regular physical activity can enhance blood flow to the brain, promote neuroplasticity, and reduce the risk of cognitive decline. This doesn’t mean you have to start running marathons. Rather, start walking more, take the stairs whenever you can, take a yoga or pilates class – incorporate more movement into your everyday life.

2. Insufficient Sleep

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In today’s fast-paced world, many individuals do not prioritize getting adequate sleep. Studies have shown that chronic sleep deprivation can impair memory consolidation and neuronal repair processes. Lack of quality sleep has been associated with an increased risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. Talk to your healthcare provider if you are struggling with falling asleep and with sleep quality. They can help you come up with solutions, including implementing a healthy bedtime routine and discovering what habits you have that may be inhibiting your sleep.

3. Dehydration
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Dehydration can have detrimental effects on brain health and cognitive function. The brain depends on adequate hydration to function optimally. Chronic dehydration may contribute to the development of cognitive impairment, including Alzheimer’s disease. Maintaining proper hydration throughout the day is essential to support brain health.

Read More: One Early Sign of Alzheimer’s That May Show Up Before Others (Not Memory Loss)

4. Drug and Alcohol Use

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Substance abuse, including drug and alcohol consumption, can have severe consequences for the brain. Prolonged drug use and excessive alcohol consumption can damage brain cells, disrupt neurotransmitter balance, and lead to cognitive impairment. These factors may contribute to the development of dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease. This includes natural drugs such as cannabis, mushrooms, and other psychoactive plants.

5. Poor Diet

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A healthy diet is crucial in maintaining overall well-being, including brain health. Consuming a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats provides essential nutrients and antioxidants that support brain function. Conversely, a diet high in processed foods, saturated fats, and sugars may increase the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. Remember, a healthy diet doesn’t need to be complicated or expensive. Focus on the basics rather than trendy “superfoods” and you will find that a healthy diet fits your budget.

The Bottom Line

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The study highlighting the potential link between Alzheimer’s disease and modern lifestyles sheds light on the importance of environmental and lifestyle factors in its development. A sedentary lifestyle, insufficient sleep, dehydration, drug and alcohol use, and poor diet are some modern issues that have been implicated as potential contributors to Alzheimer’s disease. Addressing these factors and adopting healthier habits can potentially reduce the risk of developing this debilitating disease. Further research is necessary to confirm and better understand these associations. Still, the study offers hope for preventive strategies and interventions to curb the rising prevalence of Alzheimer’s disease in our modern world.

Read More: Could Stem Cells from Menstrual Blood Help Treat Diseases Like Alzheimer’s?


  1. Alzheimer’s Disease Fact Sheet.” NIA
  2. Dementia in the Ancient Greco-Roman World Was Minimally Mentioned.” IOS Press. December 16, 2023.
  3. Did the ancient Greeks and Romans experience Alzheimer’s?Today. Leigh Hopper. January 31, 2024.
  4. Understanding Alzheimer’s Disease.” OHSU