Submitted By: Anna Huffman
Edited By: Marcia Bristow MS RDN CSSD CD
Seventeen percent of Americans have Alzheimer’s and 25-50% Americans 85 or older will have symptoms.1 Some people are prone to develop Alzheimer’s because of their genes.2 However, some people are not and there are certain steps we can take to delay, prevent, or slow down Alzheimer’s. Genetics aside, Alzheimer’s is caused by damage to blood vessels in the brain. The biggest risk factors for this type of damage are high blood pressure, smoking, and type 2 diabetes.2 Luckily, these risk factors can be reduced by making healthy lifestyle choices.
Eating well and being physically active are key to reducing your risk of developing Alzheimer’s. They can also help you maintain a healthy weight. A healthy diet includes lots of fruits and vegetables, plenty of whole grains, some low-fat dairy, nuts and legumes, oils, and lean proteins. Exercising 30-60 minutes each day can help keep both your body and brain in excellent health. Exercise also helps improve insulin levels, blood flow, mood, and stress levels. All of these factors work together to improve brain health.
Taking care of blood pressure and diabetes are also important in reducing your risk of developing Alzheimer’s. Lower your blood pressure with diet, exercise, weight loss, and if necessary, medication. If you have diabetes keep your blood sugar within normal limits. And, again, use medication when necessary.
Lastly, the brain needs exercise too. Using your brain lowers your risk of developing Alzheimer’s. It’s also protective for those who already have the disease. Ways to exercise the brain include reading, writing, using fine-motor skills, or learning something new. Try taking a class or learning a new language, reading a book or newspaper, or working on a puzzle. These activities can be fun too!
So what is the bottom line? Using these skills can increase your brain’s health and so decrease the risk of Alzheimer’s. Follow these general tips to keep your brain in tip-top shape: maintain a healthy weight, be physically active each day, eat a healthy diet, effectively manage blood pressure and diabetes, and stay mentally and socially active.
- Mitchell S. Healthy Brain: How to Avoid Dementia – Spirit of Health. http://spirit-of-health.com/healthy-brain-how-to-avoid-dementia/. Accessed May 4, 2016.
- Alzheimer’s Disease Genetics Fact Sheet | National Institute on Aging. https://www.nia.nih.gov/alzheimers/publication/alzheimers-disease-genetics-fact-sheet#alzheimers. Accessed May 3, 2016.
- Katz L, Rubin M. How to Keep Your Brain Alive. Nutr Action Heal. 2014; Jan/Feb: 2-7.