Every 66 seconds someone in the United States develops Alzheimer’s disease. It affects more than five million Americans and is the sixth-leading cause of death – more than breast and prostate cancer combined. Its prevalence is undeniable, and these numbers will grow higher as the population lives longer.
While Alzheimer’s isn’t preventable or curable, there are things you can do now to help reduce the risk of its development when you are older. It’s about identifying your personal risk factors to maximize your chances of sustaining your cognitive abilities.
There are six key factors on which to concentrate: routine exercise, healthy eating, mental stimulation, quality sleep, stress management, and active socialization.
The Alzheimer’s Research & Prevention Foundation cites regular exercise can potentially slash the risk of developing the disease in half. By maintaining 150 minutes of moderate exercise each week, you’ll stimulate your brain’s ability to preserve old connections as well as make new ones. Recommended activities include walking and swimming. Additionally, practicing balance and coordination exercises can help you stay agile and avoid falls, which has been known to increase Alzheimer’s risk.
Inflammation and insulin resistance during Alzheimer’s disease injures neurons and inhibits communication between brain cells. Numerous studies point to a link between metabolic disorders and signal processing systems. Being cognizant of what you eat can protect your brain and reduce inflammation. You should cut down on sugar, avoid trans fats, consume omega-3 fats, increase intake of fruit and vegetables, and drink tea.
You’re never too old to learn something new – and if you live by that mantra, you’re less likely to develop Alzheimer’s. A NIH ACTIVE study reveals older adults who received as few as 10 sessions of mental training improved their cognitive functioning in daily activities in the month after training and continued to show long-lasting improvements 10 years later. Seek out activities that involve multiple tasks or require communication, interaction, and organization. It’s a great excuse to start a new hobby, play games, and complete puzzles.
Sleeping at least eight hours a night is always a recipe for improved health. Sleep deprivation is a common ailment for those with Alzheimer’s disease. Poor sleep is linked to higher levels of beta-amyloid, a brain-clogging protein that interferes with the deep sleep that is necessary for memory formation. Improve your sleep and you improve your cognition.
Persistent stress tolls heavily on the brain, which generates shrinkage in a key memory area, hampering nerve cell growth, and increasing the risk of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. By managing stress levels, you can minimize its harmful effects. Try meditating, relaxing activities, and maintaining a good sense of humor.
Isolation is detrimental to your brain. Engage often with others and it may protect against Alzheimer’s later in life. Continue forming friendships, volunteering, and joining clubs as you age.
There is no guaranteed prevention, but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth the attempt of reducing susceptibility to the disease. Remain cognizant about your life. Be active, be social, and be healthy.