Alzheimer’s is a progressive and fatal disease that affects memory, cognition and behavior. According to the Alzheimer’s Association:
- One in ten people age 65 and older have the disease.
- Two-thirds of those are women.
- Alzheimer’s and other dementias are the sixth leading cause of death in the U.S.
Alzheimer’s disease is not a part of “normal aging” and it isn’t simply memory loss. Researchers don’t know what causes Alzheimer’s, but suspect that it’s a combination of genetics, environment and lifestyle. Unfortunately, there is no research that definitively shows which lifestyle habits will help to slow or prevent dementia. However, there are several lifestyle habits that have been associated with a lower risk of Alzheimer’s, and many of them will also benefit your overall health.
Here are 10 things that may help to reduce your risk of Alzheimer’s and dementia:
- Exercise: Physical exercise is good for your body, brain, and mood, so get moving.
- Avoid alcohol: Moderate consumption is OK, but make sure you’re really meeting those criteria: no more than one drink (one beer or five ounces of wine) for women and two for men per day.
- Maintain your general health: People with Type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure seem to have a much higher incidence of Alzheimer’s, so work closely with your doctor to keep these chronic conditions under control.
- Treat mental health conditions: Depression, in particular, has also been connected to an increased rate of Alzheimer’s.
- Keep learning: Staying mentally active has been associated with increased cognitive function in older adults. Whether it’s reading, doing crossword puzzles, taking an online class or attending a workshop, find something that you enjoy doing to challenge your brain on a regular basis.
- Eat your fish and vegetables: Omega 3 fatty acids and folic acid are two of the most promising nutrients when it comes to protecting the brain from degeneration. Get Omega 3s by eating fatty fish, such as salmon, mackerel and lake trout; and folic acid from dark, leafy greens and vegetables (like kale, spinach, and broccoli); garbanzo and other beans, citrus fruits and avocados.
- Be social: Cultivating an active lifestyle is a necessity for living well, and may offer some protection from Alzheimer’s. Plus, a lack of social connection is detrimental to your health all around.
- Don’t smoke: Smoking dramatically increases your chances of developing Alzheimer’s and other dementias; and that includes regular exposure to secondhand smoke, too.
- Protect your head: Traumatic brain injury can increase your risk of Alzheimer’s, so protect your head when playing sports or doing outdoor activities, and always wear your seatbelt.
- Scale back on sugar: Some experts are calling Alzheimer’s “Type 3 diabetes,” and researchers are investigating a link between insulin resistance and Alzheimer’s disease later in life.
For more information about Alzheimer’s, visit https://www.alz.org/.