How to Reduce Your Risk of Alzheimer's Disease
Alzheimer’s and Dementia are complicated and challenging diseases. Alzheimer’s, specifically, can look different for everyone, but one thing is for sure; it is difficult for anyone it touches.
Alzheimer’s is defined as the accumulation of plaques outside of neurons and twisted strands of protein tangles inside neurons in the brain that slowly destroy memory and thinking skills. It is the 5th leading cause of death over the age of 64 and 1 in 9 people over the age of 65 are diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. Not only does it affect millions of people physically, but financially. Friends and family provided billions of dollars in unpaid care last year. The numbers are staggering, but how did we get here and what can we do about it?
Alzheimer’s research is still developing, but the conclusion so far is Alzheimer’s is not caused by one thing. It’s been said that Alzheimer’s is a “lifestyle disease.” This means there are many contributing factors. The good news is by changing many of your daily habits, you can reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease and improve memory. Here are a few habits to focus on:
- Eat an anti-inflammatory diet
- The number one food to remove from your diet is sugar because it can cause chronic inflammation, which leads to brain damage. Other foods to avoid our fast food and vegetable oils. Try adding healthy fats like avocadoes, salmon, leafy vegetables, and fruits. Read more about sugar and brain health here
- Seek help for mental health conditions
- Research shows that there is a link specifically between depression and Alzheimer’s Disease and that untreated depression can significantly increase your risk for Alzheimer’s. However, it’s important to take care of any mental health condition (ADD, ADHD, anxiety, etc.) as well.
- Maintain a healthy weight and manage your blood sugar levels
- Alzheimer’s has recently been nicknamed “type 3 diabetes.” Insulin problems and high levels of blood sugar related to diabetes have been tied to cognitive decline. If you have been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, it’s important to eat healthy and get adequate exercise to manage your symptoms.
- Get adequate exercise
- Exercise increases blood flow and oxygen, which is critical for your brain. Low blood flow to the brain can predict Alzheimer’s. It’s best to get at least 30 minutes of physical activity 3-4 times a week.
- Get adequate sleep
- Sleeping is important for your brain to restore itself. It’s harder for your brain to learn, communicate, and store memories if you are getting less than 7 hours of sleep a night.
- Protect your head
- Head trauma or traumatic brain injuries can increase your risk for dementia. Wear a helmet, wear a seatbelt, and remove items from your home that are tripping hazards.
- Avoid alcohol
- Excessive drinking can worsen your health overall, but it has been associated with cognitive decline earlier than in individuals that do not drink heavily.
- Don’t smoke
- It’s common knowledge that smoking can cause many health problems including cardiovascular disease, cancer, heart disease, and stroke. An association between smoking and cognitive decline has also been found.
- Balance your hormones
- Hormonal imbalances can increase your risk for heart disease, depression, and diabetes, which have all been shown to be linked to Alzheimer’s. You can read more in depth about hormones here
Although there is nothing you can do to prevent Alzheimer’s completely, making the above lifestyle changes can protect you against dementia and improve your health overall.