The path to the prevention of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia is still not completely clear. Researchers continue to investigate the causes and have found that a combination of lifestyle, genetic, environmental, and health factors play into the development of the disease. Research has indicated, however, that there are some things that you can do to greatly decrease your chances of developing Alzheimer’s.
Genetics Are NOT a One-Way Ticket to Dementia
While a gene called APOE has been linked to Alzheimer’s, it’s not a guarantee. Many people who have inherited the APOE e4 gene do not get Alzheimer’s and vice versa. Another factor that suggests that Alzheimer’s is greatly influenced by lifestyle and environment is that the incidence of the disease within a specific population changes with migration. For example, Japanese Americans have a higher incidence of Alzheimer’s than do Japanese in Japan. There are also studies that indicate that heart disease and diabetes may be linked to a decline in cognitive function. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, autopsy studies have indicated that as many as 80% of people with Alzheimer’s have also had cardiovascular disease. Vascular disease and diabetes both effect blood circulation which is critical to brain health.
Diet: Populations that generally have low rates of Alzheimer’s have a tendency to develop the disease after moving to westernized nations. This suggests that diet is an important factor. Making fruit and vegetables (especially leafy greens) a top priority while simultaneously reducing your intake of animal fats and proteins will play a big role in keeping your heart and brain healthy. Increase your consumption of fish and omega-3 fatty acids. Also, talk to your doctor about vitamin B supplements. Following a “Mediterranean Diet” can be a good guideline for healthy eating and it prevents cardiovascular disease as well promoting brain health.
Exercise: While some of us tend to completely separate the mental and the physical, this connection cannot be ignored when it comes to Alzheimer’s prevention. So before we can even think about improving our brain activity with puzzles and other forms of mental stimulation, we need to be sure that we are maintaining healthy blood circulation throughout the blood vessels in our brains. Health experts recommend doing 30 minutes of aerobic exercise at least 5 days week. There’s no need to be intense. A fast-paced walk is sufficient to reap health benefits.
Socialization: Cognitive stimulation through social interaction is proving to be valuable in preventing and slowing dementia. It’s important to maintain an active and healthy social life. Human interaction and keeping up with social norms keeps the mind active and better able to perform daily tasks. It also helps with memory, as people are forced to recall past experiences when they engage in conversation with others. Socializing is also good for emotional health and prevents depression and unhealthy thinking patterns that can develop in isolation. For an added bonus, make physical activity a group activity.
There is continuing research on the root causes of Alzheimer’s disease and its prevention. Additionally, Alzheimer’s medications and treatment options are seeing continued advancements that are improving sufferers’ lifestyles. Visit our Aging Conditions page for more information and to learn more about the available Alzheimer’s medications.