Every 66 seconds, someone in the United States develops Alzheimer’s. This equates to more than five million Americans living with this disease — which is expected to reach up to 16 million by the year 2050.
Although there is no cure for this disease, researchers have identified key factors that may significantly reduce your risk. Since this is such a complex disease, it is believed that there may be numerous contributing factors. This means that there are likely multiple ways to intervene.
The following six factors can be addressed today, helping you reduce your risk in the future.
Focus on These Six Factors to Reduce Your Risk of Alzheimer’s
Each of the following suggestions is based on scientific research. It is recommended that you implement all six recommendations. To help you stay on-track, focus on one factor at a time. As you change your routine, your new routine will turn into new daily habits. Those habits will then support your physical and neurological health.
Factor One: A Healthy Diet
The phrase “you are what you eat” could not be closer to the truth, which is why a healthy diet is the first place to begin. More specifically, it has been found that boosting your brain health is achievable through diet.
As stated by the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, you should minimize your intake of trans and saturated fats. In contrast, you should consume more plant-based foods and obtain at least 15 milligrams of vitamin E daily. Some sources include whole grains, seeds, nuts and dark, and leafy green vegetables. Also, supplement vitamin B12, if deficient.
Nutritional modifications are ideal because they are so easy to implement. They are also cost-effective, socially acceptable, and are typically void of any serious side effects. Begin consuming whole food sources that offer antioxidants, vitamins, lipids, flavonoids, and other key macro and micronutrients.
Although a balanced diet is key, researchers are particularly interested in vitamin E and vitamin C. This is based on their antioxidant profile. The same is true regarding omega-3 fatty acids — which have been shown to yield neuroprotective effects. This is why the Mediterranean diet, rich in fruits, vegetables, fish, olive oil, whole grains, nuts, and seeds, has been shown to reduce dementia risk.
You should also avoid:
A high intake of sugar — It has been found that there may be a ‘tipping point’ in regards to sugar and the development of Alzheimer’s. Excess sugar may damage an enzyme that is associated with inflammation response.
Significantly reduce your intake of red meat, ice cream, margarine, commercially baked products, and other foods that are high in saturated and trans-unsaturated fats.
To read more about how your diet can help improve your brain health, read this post.
Factor Two: Regular Exercise
Numerous studies have found that regular exercise can help protect your brain. If you are currently inactive, start small and then continuously set new goals. Researchers recommend that you incorporate aerobic exercise into your routine, equivalent to 40 minutes of brisk walking, three times weekly.
Those who exercise on a regular basis have been shown to experience greater protection against oxidative stress. This means that exercise can protect brain plasticity and neurogenesis. In one study, the researchers concluded that physical exercise is beneficial when aiming to prevent Alzheimer’s and other age-associated neurodegenerative diseases.
In addition, it has been found that at-risk individuals who perform moderate-intensity exercise showcase healthier patterns of glucose metabolism in the brain itself. “Moderate exercise” is defined as a strenuous run or a brisk walk.
Factor Three: Social Engagement
Those who isolate themselves appear to increase their risk of late-life dementia. When people become socially isolated for long periods of time, this has been shown to increase neurological damage. It is believed that avoiding isolation will not only reduce your risk, but it could help lessen deterioration once Alzheimer’s has already developed.
While studying the correlation between loneliness and amyloid burden in cognitively normal adults, it has been found that individuals with preclinical Alzheimer’s are 7.5 times more likely to feel lonely in comparison to healthy controls. This means that feeling socially isolated may be an early warning sign that can potentially lead to Alzheimer’s.
Factor Four: Quality Sleep
Sleep is incredibly important for all aspects of your health. It is suggested that you maintain regular, healthy sleep patterns — even on the weekends. It has been found that disrupting even one night of sleep can increase brain proteins that are associated with Alzheimer’s.
Since one out of three Americans does not get enough sleep, this is considered to a public health issue. One study found that those who do not get enough REM sleep may increase their risk of dementia. There may also be a connection between poor sleep and conditions such as cardiovascular disease and diabetes, both of which increase your risk of Alzheimer’s.
Factor Five: Stress Management
Chronic stress has been linked to cognitive impairment, as well as a higher risk of Alzheimer’s. This is why it is important to treat any taxing mental health conditions, including anxiety and depression. Researchers have found that when suffering from mild cognitive impairment and anxiety, individuals are 135 percent more likely to develop Alzheimer’s.
Factor Six: Mental Stimulation
Keeping your brain active can help build reserves of healthy brain cells and the vital connections between them. Some examples include but are not limited to reading, learning a new language, artistic hobbies, playing an instrument, and more. This is also why higher education may reduce dementia risk based on “cognitive reserve” and overall stimulation.
After researchers analyzed 718 men and women with mild Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia, it was found that mental stimulation improved memory and thinking test scores. These individuals also had increased feelings of well-being, experience greater quality of life, and improved communication with those around them.
Although the above six factors are key in terms of reducing your risk, it is also suggested that you:
Quit smoking — It has been shown to nearly double your risk of Alzheimer’s.
Manage your weight — A BMI between 18.5 and 24.9 is considered to be normal.
Reduce your intake of alcohol — Excessive drinking can lead to brain tissue damage, which is why you should not consume more than 14 units a week.
Manage hypertension — One study found that potassium-sparing diuretics reduced risk by 75 percent. In addition, any type of antihypertensive medication reduced risk by a third.
Address hearing loss — Do not ignore symptoms of hearing loss, as brain shrinkage appears to be accelerated when suffering from poor hearing.
Take a proactive approach in order to protect your brain today!
To view the full list of sources and research covered in this post, go here.