Did you know that you have the power right now to make your brain healthier and reduce your risk of Alzheimer’s disease? While not all of the risk factors are in your control (age, genetics, family history) – improving your diet, taking care of your mental health, increasing physical activity, and making other healthy lifestyle changes can reduce your risk of Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia.
Understanding Alzheimer’s Disease
To reduce your risk of Alzheimer’s, it’s important to make sure you understand as much about the disease as possible. It’s particularly important to be aware of the warning signs. As we mentioned in our blog What is Alzheimer’s Disease?, Alzheimer’s is a brain disorder that slowly destroys thinking skills, memory, and impacts the ability to carry out simple, daily tasks. The disease begins with an abnormal accumulation of proteins within the brain and is the most common cause of dementia in elderly individuals. Warning signs of the disease include:
- Losing things or misplacing items in odd places
- Rapid mood and/or personality changes
- Poor judgment and decision making
- Repeating questions over-and-over again
- Trouble completing normal, routine tasks
Reduce Your Risk of Alzheimer’s Disease
With no known cure today, the best approach to combat the risks is living a healthy lifestyle and practicing a holistic approach to your brain health (read more here). Some recommended changes are:
Take caring of your mental health. You will need to adopt a holistic approach to caring for your brain which includes: physical activity, challenging your brain, reducing stress, eating well, and being social (source). This may take some time to adjust to, but it is essential for your brain to be healthy. Having a focus on brain health today can have real, tangible benefits in the future.
Avoiding and/or quitting smoking. There are connections between your heart and brain health. In particular, on the blood flow to your brain, which carries necessary oxygen. High blood pressure, diabetes, and high cholesterol are some of the risk factors associated with smoking and can be immediately reduced if you quit today (source).
Eating healthier. You can start by eating less carbs and sugars, more fruits and vegetables, and increasing your intake of omega-3 fatty acids. An example of one healthy diet that has been associated with a reduced risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s is the Mediterranean Diet. The Mediterranean is rich in vegetables, fish, whole grains, and the other important ingredients that can improve your memory. Read more here about this diet and how it can help you.
Getting more exercise. Being physically active and exercising regularly can have a direct benefit to your brain cells and lower your risk of Alzheimer’s. When you exercise you are increasing the blood and oxygen flow to the brain, which are essential nutrients for a healthy brain (source). In recent studies, those that exercised had better blood flow in the memory and processing centers of the brain, resulting in improved attention, planning, and general organizing abilities (source).
Just like saving for your retirement, the more time you put in with healthy foods, exercise, and maintaining a healthy brain, the greater chance you have to reduce your risk of Alzheimer’s.
We all have some risk of getting Alzheimer’s or other types of dementia, but there are definitely changes that can be made to help prevent these diseases from impacting us. Share this information with your friends and loved ones today. Get educated on Alzheimer’s and start changing your lifestyle today.