November is Alzheimer’s Disease and Awareness Month.
Alzheimer’s disease, the most common form of dementia, typically affects those 65 years of age or older. However, up to 5 percent of those with Alzheimer’s develop it in their 40’s and 50’s. The good news is that there are plenty of health and lifestyle factors that can reduce the risk of developing this disease and other types of dementia, or slow down their progression.
5 ways to reduce your risk of Alzheimer’s
- Exercise your mind. Activities such as reading, writing, doing crossword puzzles and Sudoku, and playing chess have been linked to a lower risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. A study from the University of California, Berkley, found that the more often a person engaged in mentally stimulating activities, the less buildup of beta-amyloid (a toxic protein that builds up in the brains of those with Alzheimer’s) they were likely to have.
- Stay physically active. Regular physical exercise is believed to keep Alzheimer’s and dementia at bay because it increases blood and oxygen flow in the brain, aiding memory and improving brain flexibility.
- Go Mediterranean. Studies have found numerous benefits to following a Mediterranean diet, including a lower incidence rate of Alzheimer’s disease. So be sure to eat plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, low-fat dairy, olive oil, fish (wild not farmed!) while limiting intake of sugar and red meat.
- Maintain a healthy heart. The Alzheimer’s Association notes that several conditions that increase the risk of cardiovascular disease (high blood pressure, diabetes, and high cholesterol) also increase the risk of developing Alzheimer’s, and as many as 80 percent of Alzheimer’s patients have cardiovascular disease. Therefore, maintaining a healthy heart can help brain function, and vice versa.
- Get Social. A number of studies have linked strong social relationships with a reduced risk of cognitive decline. While there is no concrete reason for this, it is believed that the juggling of multiple relationships exercises the brain and strengthens the connection between nerve cells. In fact, socialization even helps facilitate all of the above points – it gets you thinking, moving, eating well, and all of these lead to a healthier heart.
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By Christine Tompa