Brains are an essential organ and the foundation of our existence as sentient beings. Despite the importance of our brains, we are rarely concerned with our brain health until seeing signs that something’s wrong. But, if you’re troubled by the thought of developing Alzheimer’s in the future, brain health should be a top priority.
This can be a sensitive topic for some, especially if you’ve had family members or friends affected by this disease. However, it’s something you need to be more aware of. Your brain is the foundation of who you are, and the last thing you want is to lose that part of you. Luckily, there are lifestyle changes you can make today that will decrease your chances of developing Alzheimer’s in the future.
What is Alzheimer’s Disease?
Alzheimer’s is the most common type of dementia and a very prevalent disease today (1). A whopping 46.8 million people were living with dementia worldwide as of 2015 and that number is projected to double in 20 years (2). In The Americas specifically, there were 9.4 million people living with dementia in 2015 (2).
One surprising fact about Alzheimer’s is that symptoms typically don’t show up until several years after the disease has already come to fruition. This is why it is so important to prioritize your brain health before you’re a senior. Maria Shriver, the founder of the Women’s Alzheimer’s Movement, explained that, “This is a disease that is in your brain 20 years before you are symptomatic” (3).
Even though the prospect of developing Alzheimer’s can be quite daunting, there are healthy habits you can adopt that help prevent dementia later on. Alzheimer’s is the result of a number of complex interactions including genetics, age, environment, medical conditions, and lifestyle (4). Although it isn’t possible to control risk factors like genes or age, there are some factors that can be changed and subsequently reduce your risk of developing Alzheimer’s (5).
8 Healthy Habits that Help Prevent Alzheimer’s
1. Regular Physical Exercise
Exercising has been associated with improved cognitive function and a decreased risk of cognitive impairment (5). Although studies show that exercise must be regular and more vigorous to see the full benefits, even mild activities like walking have been proven to work in some cases (5). Take small steps to start, they can go a long way.
2. Exercise Your Brain Daily
An active mind is just as important as an active body when it comes to combating dementia. Keep your mind busy by reading your favorite books, playing card games with friends, or doing crosswords during long commutes (6).
3. Quitting Smoking
Becoming a non-smoker reduces the risk of cognitive decline and potentially dementia (5). You’ll be much better off than people who have smoked throughout their lives (5).
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4. Adopt a Mediterranean Diet
Numerous studies have been conducted analyzing the relationship between diet and Alzheimer’s disease (5). It has been consistently found that high adherence to a Mediterranean diet is associated with reduced risk for cognitive impairment (7).
Implement a diet with little red meat and increased whole grains, vegetables and fruit, nuts, fish, and olive oil to reduce your risk of developing Alzheimer’s (5).
5. Decrease Alcohol Consumption
Small to moderate consumption of alcohol has been associated with a decreased risk of dementia and cognitive decline (5). Saving your drinking for weekends or holidays is an easy way to reduce alcohol consumption.
6. Maintain a Healthy Weight
Being at a healthy weight decreases the probability of developing dementia, as well as a plethora of other weight-related diseases (6). Check out our holistic guide for practical tips you can use to maintain a healthy weight (no matter what your age)!
Participate in Social Activities
Immersing yourself in social activities, such as joining a club or doing volunteer work, is associated with improved cognitive function (5). It’s always good for your mental health to have people to talk to and things to do!
You’re the only person who knows what’s going on with your body and brain so be your own advocate! If you’ve had a stroke, heart disease, or diabetes, take action early as these are all strong risk factors associated with dementia (6).
Let’s face it; Alzheimer’s is a scary disease that nobody really likes to talk about. Starting the conversation about preventative methods early on, however, can significantly decrease your chance of developing this form of dementia. Take control of your future and start prioritizing your brain today!
What is Dementia? (n.d.) Retrieved from https://www.alz.org/what-is-dementia.asp
Prince, M., Wimo, A., Guerchet, M., Ali, G.C., Wu, Y.T., Prina, M. (2015, August). World Alzheimer Report 2015: The Global Impact of Dementia. Retrieved from https://www.alz.co.uk/research/WorldAlzheimerReport2015.pdf
Abcarian, R. (2018, March 30). How to avoid losing your mind to Alzheimer’s or dementia. Hint: Start now, says Maria Shriver. Los Angeles Times. Retrieved from http://www.latimes.com/local/abcarian/la-me-abcarian-dementia-prevention-20180330-story.html
Solomon, A., Mangialasche, F., Richard, E., Andrieu, S., Bennett, D.A., Breteler, M., Fratiglioni, L., Hooshmand, B., Khachaturian, A.S., Schneider, L.S., Skoog, I., Kivipelto, M. (2014, March). Advances in the prevention of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. Journal of Internal Medicine, 273 (3), 229-250. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4390027/#S21title
Baumgart, M., Snyder, H.M., Carrillo, M.C., Fazio, S., Kim, H., Johns, H. (2015, June). Summary of the evidence on modifiable risk factors for cognitive decline and dementia: A population-based perspective. The Journal of the Alzheimer’s Association, 11 (6), 718-726. Retrieved from http://www.alzheimersanddementia.com/article/S1552-5260(15)00197-1/fulltext#sec4.2
How to reduce your risk of dementia. (n.d.) Retrieved from https://www.alzheimers.org.uk/info/20010/risk_factors_and_prevention/737/how_to_reduce_your_risk_of_dementia
Psaltopoulou, T., Sergentanis, T.N., Panagiotakos, D.B., Sergentanis, I.N., Kosti, R. (2013, May 30). Mediterranean diet, stoke, cognitive impairment, and depression: A meta-analysis. Annals of Neurology, 74 (4), 580-591. Retrieved from https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1002/ana.23944
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