While Alzheimer’s is typically considered a disease of the elderly, certain changes in the brain linked to Alzheimer’s can start to develop as early as your 30s or 40s. No single treatment or therapy is guaranteed to prevent Alzheimer’s; however, researchers are finding that certain lifestyle and healthy habits can dramatically reduce your chances of developing Alzheimer’s disease. The following are steps you can take today to keep your brain healthy for decades to come.
#1: Get Moving
Physical exercise helps stimulate the brain’s ability to maintain and create new neural connections, which may reduce your Alzheimer’s risk by up to 50 percent. The Alzheimer’s Research and Prevention Foundation recommends that you get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity on a weekly basis. You will get the most benefit from an exercise regimen that incorporates aerobic activity, strength training, and balance and coordination exercises.
#2: Eat to Protect Brain Health
Insulin resistance and chronic inflammation can damage neurons necessary for communication between brain cells. A healthy diet can reduce inflammation and promote healthy glucose levels and energy production. A brain-healthy diet should include the following:
• A wide variety of fruits and vegetables.
• Limited dairy and red meat.
• Foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids, including fish.
• Foods that help detoxify the body, including green tea, ginger, dark berries, and soy.
#3: Cross-training for the Brain
Individuals who stay mentally active and challenge themselves by learning new information have a lower incidence of developing Alzheimer’s. According to the National Institutes of Health, regular mental training exercises not only improve cognitive function in the short-term, but the benefits can cause improvements even years later. The most effective mental training regimens involve completing multiple tasks or engaging in activities that simultaneously require you to use organizational, communication, and interaction skills.
#4: Get Plenty of Sleep
Insomnia and poor sleep have been linked to increased levels of beta-amyloid, which is a protein believed to contribute to plaque formation in the brains of patients with Alzheimer’s. Beta-amyloid also interferes with deep sleep, which is vital for memory formation. As a general rule, adults should aim for 7 to 9 hours of uninterrupted sleep each night.
#5: Reduce Stress
Chronic stress affects virtually every body system, including the brain. Stress can hamper cell growth and cause shrinkage in the hippocampus, which is a key memory center of the brain. Whether it is meditation, a long walk, or playing with your pets, try to set aside time each day to engage in activities that bring you peace and joy.
#6: Build New Friendships and a Strong Support System
Humans do not naturally thrive in isolation. Individuals who stay socially engaged tend to perform better on memory and cognition tests and have lower rates of Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia. Taking a group class, volunteering, or joining a social club are great ways to get out and connected with others.
#7: Consider Taking a B12 Supplement
Vitamin B12 is naturally found in various fortified foods as well as animal products. The vitamin is believed to reduce levels of the amino acid homocysteine, which has been linked to memory problems and cognitive impairment. Individuals over 50 or who only eat a plant-based diet may benefit from a B12 supplement to reduce brain atrophy and improve memory retention.
#8: Be Careful About Taking Multivitamins
Unless directed by your doctor, it is best to avoid multivitamins that contain extra iron and copper. While these nutrients are essential, excess amounts can cause cognitive problems. If you eat a relatively well-balanced diet, you should already get plenty of iron and copper from dietary sources.
#9: Avoid Cheap Pots and Pans
If possible, you should avoid using aluminum cookware. Preliminary data suggests that exposure to aluminum can have adverse effects on the central nervous system and produce oxidative stress, which can lead to cognitive problems. Whenever possible, try to opt for cast iron or stainless steel cookware.
#10: Drink More Juice
The vitamins and polyphenol antioxidants in juice may help prevent Alzheimer’s. A ten-year-long study published in the American Journal of Medicine showed that participants who drank three servings of fruit or vegetable juice a day reduced their Alzheimer’s risk by as much as 76 percent. Polyphenols are also found in tea and red wine.
#11: Maintain a Healthy Weight
Brain health is connected to your overall health, including your body mass index. A long-term study of more than 10,000 people showed a significant link between obesity and an increased risk of Alzheimer’s. Individuals who are overweight or obese at midlife are two to three times more like to develop Alzheimer’s.
#12: Stop Smoking
In addition to damaging your heart and lungs, smoking is also a significant risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease. One meta-study showed that smokers over age 65 increase their risk of developing Alzheimer’s by up to 80 percent. Quitting smoking improves the circulation to your brain almost immediately.
Meditating can improve the vascular health of your brain. One study involving a group of seniors with Alzheimer’s showed that meditating as little as 12 minutes a day for two months improved cognitive functioning. Meditation is also an effective way to lower stress and improve mood.
#14: Get Outdoors
A recent study showed that vitamin D may play a role in preventing Alzheimer’s. The study published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease concluded that vitamin D along with omega-3 fatty acid may help clear amyloid plaques from the brain that can contribute to the onset of Alzheimer’s. While you can take vitamin D supplements, the best way to get vitamin D is by getting outside for short periods every day.
#15 Get a Flu Shot
There is a misconception that flu shots can increase your risk of Alzheimer’s due to the low levels of mercury contained in the vaccine. A study published in the Canadian Medical Journal found just the opposite. Although the connection is not fully understood, the flu vaccine may offer some protective benefit against Alzheimer’s.
#16 Limit Sugar Intake:
Some experts refer to Alzheimer’s as “diabetes of the brain.” Over time, a diet high in sugar can lead to brain cells becoming insulin resistant. This can cause amyloid plaques to form, which can contribute to the onset of Alzheimer’s
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