4 Ways to Prevent Alzheimer’s4 Ways to Prevent Alzheimer's

Alzheimer’s disease affects more than 5.1 million Americans, a number that continues to grow as the overall population ages. And while millions of dollars go into research ever year, it’s not yet completely clear what causes this progressive disease that attacks the brain’s nerve cells, causing memory loss, affected thinking and language skills, and behavioral changes. 

Alzheimer’s disease researchers face substantial challenges when looking for causes and connections in victims. For any kind of truly conclusive results, a study would have to have an extremely large group of participants, include tracking over decades, and possibly even require that some participants restrict certain beneficial activities (like healthy eating or regular exercise) for comparison with other participants. Much of today’s research comes from autopsy research, which is one of the most effective ways to explore the plaques and tangles that form in the brain, potentially causing dementia.

There are, however, several habits a person can put into practice in hopes of giving him or herself a better chance at avoiding Alzheimer’s disease. While none of these ideas have been the “silver bullet” of explanation and prevention, all also benefit a person’s overall health and wellbeing regardless.

1. Keep your heart healthy.

While results are not completely definitive, autopsy research has shown that as many as 80% of Alzheimer victims also showed signs of cardiovascular disease. However, while some brains did show plaques and tangles, they showed no cardiovascular disease and no known dementia while the person was living. This suggests that possibly the presence of both diseases could be responsible for the outward signs of Alzheimer’s disease. The relationship between the two diseases is not fully understood, but these initial results show yet another reason to keep your heart healthy, a clean diet, and plenty of exercise.

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2. Get moving.

Exercise seems to be great for all sorts of aspects of an adult’s life, including the brain. Some studies show that exercise can help increase blood and oxygen flow to the brain, benefiting brain cells. So get with your doctor, create an attainable exercise plan if you don’t already have one, and work out consistently to make your body and your brain happy.

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3. Stay connected.

Aging can sometimes be a bit isolating, but some studies show that keeping up your social connections can help slow a cognitive decline. Why researchers are not completely sure what causes this connection, it’s another good reason to pick up the phone and make plans to meet with your family members or friends for some coffee, a walk, or a board game. Keeping your neurons firing through active conversation can help keep your connections flowing properly.

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4. Keep your mind nimble.

Some research shows that exercising your brain can be just as important as exercising the rest of your body. There are many simple and fun ways to do so, including crossword puzzles and Sudoku games, both of which can be purchased cheaply at your local drugstore in the books section.  You can also participate in online “courses” that include brain-teasing games, like those at Lumosity.com, for a small fee. Learning new skills and hobbies – or even playing card games that utilize math skills – at your local senior center or library can also keep your brain flexible and strong.

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Researchers will continue to work hard to find the root cause of Alzheimer’s disease, especially as the population of seniors grows. Statistics show that by 2030, more than 20% of the population will be over the age of 65. These habits benefit not only your brain but your overall body, and are an easy way to make the most of your golden years.

Megan Hammons lives in the Central Texas countryside just outside of Austin, pursuing her love for copywriting after a career in high-tech marketing. She is part of a large, diverse family and enjoys spending time with the multiple generations living in her community.

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