Alzheimer’s is caused by the buildup of plaque on certain receptors in your brain, leading to short-term memory loss, change in behavior, and further cognitive issues. As we age, our risk of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia increases. Research indicates that genetics are one of the greatest risk factors of Alzheimer’s, but studies show that there are ways you can reduce your risk of developing the disease. By practicing certain healthy habits and lifestyle choices, you can reduce your risk of Alzheimer’s and dementia, even if the disease runs in your family.
When Should I Change My Lifestyle?
It’s important that you identify your risk factors early in your life. The earlier you identify your risk factors and take action, the more effective your prevention methods will be. It’s never too late to lead a healthy lifestyle, but the earlier you establish healthy habits, the more likely you are to prevent Alzheimer’s.
Get Your Regular Exercise In
Alzheimer’s prevention begins with regular exercise. The Alzheimer’s Research & Prevention Foundation states that regular exercise can reduce your risk of Alzheimer’s by up to 50 percent. According to their research, exercise helps the brain make new connections and protect old ones, which works to prevent Alzheimer’s and other dementias.
For maximum effectiveness, your exercise routine should include:
- Roughly 150 minutes of moderate exercise each week.
- Weight and resistance training (to increase brain mass).
- Balance and coordination exercises.
A Proper Diet Promotes Brain Health
In addition to exercise, your diet plays a significance in Alzheimer’s prevention. Your eating habits should promote energy production and reduce inflammation, as inflammation can harm neural pathways in your brain, blocking communication between your brain cells.
Your healthy diet should include:
- A healthy dose of Omega-3 fatty acids.
- Plenty of fruits and vegetables.
- A daily cup of green, white, or oolong tea.
- Mediterranean staples, such as beans, fish, olive oil, and whole grains.
It’s best to avoid trans fats and saturated fats as much as you can. Research shows that these types of fats lead to inflammation, and can even produce free radicals.
Keep Your Mind Active
Your physical health plays a major role in Alzheimer’s reduction, but your mental health is equally as important. Many of us stop actively learning once we reach adulthood, which can increase our risk for Alzheimer’s. By challenging your brain well into adulthood, you can greatly increase your mental dexterity and reduce your risk of Alzheimer’s and other dementias.
Popular mental exercises include:
- Practicing memorization.
- Playing strategy games and solving riddles.
- Varying your daily habits and breaking out of your comfort zone.
- Learning something new, such as a language or skill.
By keeping your mind active, you can not only reduce your risk of Alzheimer’s, but improve your cognition well into your senior years. Doing something as simple as a crossword puzzle everyday can have long-lasting positive results on your brain, your memory, and your ability to learn.
Improve Your Sleep Quality
You’ve always heard that you need eight hours of sleep each night, and while this is generally true, it’s the quality of your sleep that matters. Your brain and your body repair themselves during your sleep, so it’s important that you are getting undisrupted sleep as often as possible. Poor sleep can actually increase the amount of brain toxins in your body.
Improve your quality of sleep by:
- Getting checked for sleep apnea, and treating it if you are diagnosed.
- Having a regular sleep schedule.
- Avoiding television and other electronics while in bed.
- Meditating to reduce your anxieties from the day.
- Following a relaxing ritual before bed (such as taking a bath, reading a book, etc.).
Take Steps to Reduce Stress
It’s no secret that stress can have a major impact on our health, and our brains are no exception. In fact, studies show that chronic stress can cause shrinkage in the brain’s hippocampus – one of its main memory centers. It can also stunt nerve growth in the brain, leading to an increased risk of Alzheimer’s and other dementias.
Reducing stress can be difficult, particularly if you have anxiety disorders or PTSD. However, there are some general tips you can follow to reduce your stress:
- Take long, deep breaths when you begin to feel stressed.
- Make relaxation part of your daily routine.
- Establish inner peace through meditation, prayer, or yoga.
- Have a healthy dose of fun every day.
Socialize with Friends and Family
As we age, we tend to focus more on our families and our careers than establishing new friendships. This is natural, but it’s not always healthy. Our brains thrive on social engagement – studies show that the more socially engaged we are, the better our cognition and memory may be.
Improve your social engagement by:
- Joining a social group with others who have similar interests.
- Taking classes with others in your age group.
- Going out with friends on a regular basis.
- Exploring your area.
Prevention Begins With You
As of now, we don’t have a cure for Alzheimer’s, so it’s important that you reduce your risks before the disease sets in and begins to progress – particularly if you’re genetically prone to dementia. By practicing the tips on this list, you can reduce your risk for Alzheimer’s, and even slow its progression if you’ve already noticed the early symptoms.