Alzheimer’s disease develops when multiple risk factors combine and overpower the brain’s ability to maintain its normal functioning. Researchers have uncovered many risk factors for Alzheimer’s disease. Some of these, such as age and genetic makeup, are out of your control. Other risk factors, however, are manageable. Healthy lifestyle choices are the best prevention for Alzheimer’s disease.
Preventable Risk Factors for Alzheimer’s Disease
According to the Alzheimer Society of Canada, Alzheimer’s disease studies on identical twins have shown that 60 percent of the overall risk for sporadic (late-onset) Alzheimer’s disease is the result of lifestyle factors rather than genetic factors. The following factors have all been identified as risk factors for Alzheimer’s disease:
- Cell damage from free radicals
- Clinical depression
- Head injuries
- Inflammatory conditions
- Low levels of brain stimulation (i.e. low education level)
- Poor cardiovascular health (i.e. high cholesterol and high blood pressure)
- Strokes and mini-strokes.
A Healthy Diet for the Prevention of Alzheimer’s
Maintaining a healthy diet is an important part of Alzheimer’s disease prevention. The basic components of a healthy diet include:
- Fruits and vegetables
- Lean protein, such as fish, chicken or tofu
- Whole grains.
Prevention for Alzheimer’s: Physical Exercise
Moderate daily exercise helps to reduce the risk of some medical conditions that are risk factors for Alzheimer’s disease. Physical exercise is also directly involved in the prevention of Alzheimer’s by promoting greater blood circulation to the brain. This helps to maintain healthy brain cells and improve cognitive skills.
According to the U.S. National Institute on Aging, adults aged 65 years and up who exercise for 15 minutes at least 3 times a week are 35 to 40 percent less likely to develop Alzheimer’s than their peers.
Mental Exercise for the Prevention of Alzheimer’s
The saying “use it or lose it” seems to be true when it comes to your brain. Research shows that exercising your brain can help enhance its health and function.
Stimulating your brain doesn’t mean you have to go back to school to get your PhD. Surprisingly simple ways to exercise your brain include:
- Dialing a phone number with your less dominant hand
- Keeping up old hobbies and learning new ones
- Learning to play a musical instrument
- Playing mind games (such word and number games)
- Staying socially active
- Studying a new language
- Taking a course on a subject that interests you
- Taking a different route when you drive to the store.
Adults who are physically, mentally and socially active are significantly less likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease than their peers.
Alzheimer Society of Canada. (n.d.) Alzheimer’s disease and risk factors. Retrieved April 28, 2010, from http://www.alzheimer.ca/english/disease/causes-riskfac.htm.
Friedland, R. P. et al. (2000). Patients with Alzheimer’s disease have reduced activities in midlife compared with healthy control-group members. Retrieved April 28, 2010, from http://www.pnas.org/content/98/6/3440.full.
Mayo Clinic. (2009). Lifestyle and home remedies. Retrieved April 28, 2010, from http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/alzheimers-disease/DS00161/DSECTION=lifestyle-and-home-remedies.
U.S. National Institutes of Health National Institute of Aging. (n.d.) The search for AD prevention strategies. Retrieved April 28, 2010, from http://www.nia.nih.gov/Alzheimers/Publications/ADPrevented/strategies.htm.