7 Things You Can Do Now to Reduce the Risk of Alzheimer’s
With over 5 million people in the United States alone living with Alzheimer’s disease, it has touched most families at least once and some several times. Watching a loved one lose access to their memory and personality is heartbreaking for family members and frustrating and terrifying to the person living through it.
Researchers don’t have all the answers on what causes the disease or how to prevent it, but studies are being done all the time to try to get a better handle on how it works and how to reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s.
Things You Can Do to Reduce Your Risk of Alzheimer’s
Here is what you can do now to try to reduce Alzheimer’s effects:
1. Cut down on alcohol.
While there is some evidence that red wine has antioxidants that are good for brain health, there’s even more evidence that going overboard with how much you drink will make your risk of Alzheimer’s worse. Having a couple of glasses of alcohol a day is okay for most people, but making sure you don’t go beyond that is another good way to keep your risk down.
Physical activity is another one of those suggestions that’s good for a lot of reasons besides helping you prevent Alzheimer’s, but it’s also been shown to offer protection against Alzheimer’s, even for people with a genetic risk. People who spend around an hour a day even just doing moderate levels of exercise – a long walk, for instance – have healthier brain activity. You don’t have to start running marathons, but working some more physical activity into your life each day can really pay off.
3. Get plenty of sleep.
Sleep is obviously important to our mental well being. If you don’t get enough sleep, not only will you be irritable, but your brain just doesn’t function as well as it does when well rested. Research suggests that if you regularly sleep less than you need, the influence on your mental health can add up. Some of the proteins responsible for the effects of Alzheimer’s increase when you don’t get enough sleep. If you regularly miss out on valuable hours of sleep when you’re young, those proteins can build up and have serious long-term effects on your brain as you age, so challenge yourself to get to bed early each night.
4. Improve your diet.
In particular, consider the Mediterranean diet. The Mediterranean diet is associated with many great health effects, some of which play a role in Alzheimer’s. Heart health is important for mental health and the diet originally got the attention of researchers because people in Mediterranean countries tend to have a lower incidence of heart disease.
One study found that seniors who follow the Mediterranean diet have a 35% reduced risk of cognitive impairment than their peers. But as far as diets go, this one still gives you a lot of yummy items to work with – beans, fish, fruit, olive oil, red wine. Colorful produce is encouraged, especially as it offers antioxidants, which are also good for cognitive health.
Changing your diet takes some commitment and getting used to, but it can make a big difference to your overall health and help you keep your brain stronger for longer.
5. Stay social.
It can be hard in adulthood to maintain social relationships. But letting relationships fall by the wayside inevitably leads to loneliness, and loneliness increases the risk of Alzheimer’s (along with a number of other health issues). If you don’t have much of a community or close friends you regularly see now, make it a priority to seek out new relationships.
Consider looking into volunteer opportunities that will help you meet people or find groups in your area based on a hobby you like such as knitting or reading. Anything that gets you out of the house and helps you meet other people can help you start making the relationships that will make your life better and improve your health as you age.
6. Take recommended supplements.
First things first, before you consider taking any new supplements, you should talk to your doctor. A supplement that’s valuable for one person could be harmful to another, a lot depends on your particular health situation. But as long as you don’t skip that important first step, there are some supplements that are generally associated with cognitive health and a reduced risk of Alzheimer’s. Souvenaid and Omega-3 fatty acids are two options worth asking your doctor about.
None of these will work magic, but they could aid in slowing memory loss down and strengthening your cognitive functions.
7. Quit smoking.
If you’re currently a smoker, you’ve heard this one before. Cutting the habit out of your life is good for you in so many ways that we all hear about regularly – it reduces your risk of lung cancer, is good for heart health, and improves respiratory issues. But another benefit that gets a bit less attention than the others is the role it seems to play in Alzheimer’s. While the research on this isn’t extensive, studies have found that people who smoke have a higher incidence of Alzheimer’s disease. The sooner you quit, the more you reduce your risk.
Something as big and scary as Alzheimer’s can make us feel powerless. We obviously don’t have total control over the disease at this point, but there are some ways we can take power back. Take control of your own health and institute a few good habits to reduce your risk.