How to Prevent Alzheimer’s Disease

Many of us have been touched by Alzheimer’s Disease (AD) or dementia. It is a frightening and devastating disease. Losing one’s memory is often thought to be equivalent to losing one’s personality. Since we still do not know how Alzheimer’s Disease is triggered, let’s take a minute to review what we do know. The following is a list of lifestyle habits that have been proven to reduce your individual risk of developing AD.

  1. Regular physical exercise can reduce your risk by up to 50 percent. Exercise can also slow further deterioration in those who have already started to develop memory problems. Exercise protects against Alzheimer’s and other types of dementia by stimulating the brain’s ability to maintain old connections as well as make new ones. You should plan for at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise each week. Ideally, you would engage in a combination of cardio exercise and strength training. Walking, biking, hiking, and swimming are excellent low-impact exercises you can do for a lifetime. Tai chi and Yoga have the additional benefit of improving balance, thus preventing falls.
  2. Be a social butterfly. Stay connected to friends and family. Face-to-face time with others stimulates our brains and makes new connections in the neurons. It is easy to become isolated and withdraw from others as those closest to you pass on. Find ways to engage in social activities that introduce you to new people and experiences.
    • Volunteer for a cause that is important to you
    • Join a club or social group
    • Take classes, play games or exercise at your local community or senior center
    • Take classes at the local high school, library, community center or college
    • Keep in touch through phone calls or video chat
    • Keep in contact through social media
    • Meet your neighbors through block parties or host a wine & cheese tasting
    • Schedule a regular date with friends
    • Enjoy local public events hosted by your community
    • Go to the movies, the local park, museums, and aquariums
  3. Follow a healthy diet. Eat at home as often as possible so that you can control what is on your plate. Avoid excess sugar and refined carbohydrates (white flour, pasta, white rice, and white bread). Enjoy a Mediterranean diet, which eliminates processed foods and includes plenty of colorful fruits and vegetables, beans, whole grains, fish, and olive oil. Avoid trans fats, which cause inflammation and produce free radicals, which can damage cells in the brain. Avoid fast food, fried foods, and packaged convenience foods. Look for partially hydrogenated oils on package labels and avoid them. Eat plenty of omega-3 fatty acids found in cold-water fish such as salmon, tuna, trout, mackerel, seaweed, and sardines. You can supplement with omega-3 plus DHA. Folic acid, vitamin B12, vitamin D, magnesium, and fish oil have been shown in multiple studies to have positive effects on brain health.
  4. Engage in stimulating activities. People who continue to learn new things and challenge their brains throughout life are less likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. Learn something new like a foreign language, practice a musical instrument, learn to paint or sew, or read something that interests you. Learn a new hobby that requires regular practice. The more challenging and complex, the greater the benefit. If you aren’t interested in learning something new, challenge yourself by improving your current skills and knowledge. Keep challenging yourself beyond your current comfort zone. Practice memorizing lists, monologues from your favorite books, bible verses, or song lyrics. Play games that involve strategy and critical thinking. Challenge yourself with puzzles, riddles, and brain teasers. For bonus points, play with others. Join a regular card game. Play chess, checkers, dominos, or word games, such as Scrabble. Practice the 5 W’s. Review your daily activities by asking “Who, What, Where, When, and Why” about your experiences. Take photos and review them to further stimulate your brain. Step outside of your regular routine. Take a new route, eat with your non-dominant hand, reorganize your paper or computer files. Vary your routine habits regularly to create new brain pathways.
  5. Get a good night’s sleep. Most adults benefit most from getting 7-9 hours of sleep per night. Eight hours appears to be ideal. If you have sleep apnea, treat it since it is not only a risk factor for developing AD, but several other disorders, such as high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, and stroke. Set a regular sleep schedule to improve your circadian rhythms, making it easier to maintain a consistent sleep schedule.
  6. Decrease stress by practicing restorative breathing. This involves taking several deep abdominal breaths, such as those practiced in Yoga. Nourish your inner peace through meditation, prayer, reflection, and religious practice. Schedule time for relaxing activities, such as getting a massage, taking a bath, walking the dog, reading a fun fiction book, or listening to relaxing music. Keep fun in your life. Laugh. A lot.
  7. Stop smoking.
  8. Control your blood pressure.
  9. Control your cholesterol.
  10. If you’re overweight, lose the extra pounds. Studies show when people are overweight in midlife, they are twice as likely to develop AD as those who are are not. Those who were obese had three times the risk.
  11. Drink only in moderation. Heavy alcohol consumption is an independent risk factor for AD and dementia by accelerating aging of the brain.
  12. Stop medications linked to dementia. Discuss alternatives to benzodiazepines (i.e, Xanax/alprazolam and Klonopin/clonazepam) and hypnotics (i.e., Ambien/zolpidem and Lunesta/eszopiclone) with your doctor to reduce your risk of AD.

Categories healthcare, prevention, weight

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