One of the most common and often devastating medical conditions associated with old age is Alzheimer’s disease. Associated with declining cognition and memory, it’s the most common cause of dementia in the elderly. This chronic neurodegenerative disease gets increasingly worse over time, as damage to the brain itself from amyloid plaques and other issues result in reduced function of key areas for thought, reasoning, memory, and motor function.
The age of onset of Alzheimer’s disease can vary, but as you get older, your chances of developing it get higher. For every five years after the age of sixty-five, your risk of Alzheimer’s doubles.
It’s natural to want to do anything you can to protect yourself from this devastating disease. The causes of Alzheimer’s aren’t yet fully understood, but there appears to be a hereditary genetic component. Certain genes related to amyloid beta proteins — which form “plaques” in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients — may raise your risk substantially. However, there are other risk factors as well, some of which you can reduce or avoid.
Healthy Body, Healthy Brain: Maintaining a Healthy Lifestyle
One of the best things you can do to prevent the onset of Alzheimer’s disease is to stay physically healthy in general. There’s evidence that people who exercise daily may have a lower risk.
Another lifestyle change that might help is adhering to what’s called a “Mediterranean diet.” These diets include mostly plant foods, plus fish and occasional poultry. They’re rich in “healthy fats” from olives, nuts, seeds, and fish oils. The DASH Diet — “Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension” — is also effective.
Interestingly, the same things that can help prevent heart disease also help prevent Alzheimer’s. Healthy diets low in trans fats and cholesterol, exercise, and psychological stress management can all help keep your brain healthy longer.
This also means managing cardiovascular conditions if you have them. If your blood pressure, blood sugar, or cholesterol are chronically too high, lowering them with diet and exercise can also lower your risk of dementia.
Staying Social and Mentally Active
Research also suggests that maintaining a healthy, fulfilling social life may also help reduce Alzheimer’s risk. This may be partly due to less psychological and emotional stress. Socializing also helps keep your mind and brain healthy and engaged.
There’s also some evidence that learning new things can help stave off Alzheimer’s and other causes of dementia. This evidence is tentative, but in the long run, it’s only really going to help you. Things like doing puzzles, practicing math, learning a language, or learning new hobbies and crafts, can all help keep your mind sharp.
The Future of Alzheimer’s Prevention
A lot of evidence about preventing Alzheimer’s is tentative, especially when it comes to mental activities like “brain games,” socializing, and learning. However, future research will hopefully shed more light on the specific causes and triggers of Alzheimer’s, revealing newer and more effective ways for people to reduce their risk.