5 Lifestyle Changes Could Reduce Your Risk of Alzheimer's Disease
Alzheimer’s disease can run in families, with about 20 genes so far linked to this illness. You can’t do anything about your genes, but there are other risk factors for Alzheimer’s that you can control. In one study, researchers identified five healthy behaviors that may lower your risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. People who adopted at least four had a 60% lower risk, while those who adopted two or three cut their risk by 37%, compared to people with one or no healthy lifestyle changes. What are these key lifestyle changes?
1Eat healthier, such as by adopting the MIND diet
The MIND diet is a type of Mediterranean-style diet that has been shown to reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease by up to 53%. Eat these MIND-endorsed, brain-healthy foods to help prevent Alzheimer’s disease: Veggies (especially green leafy ones), nuts, berries, beans, whole grains, seafood, and poultry. Avoid or limit red meat, butter and stick margarine, pastries, sweets, fried and fast food, and cheese. However, a recent study finds consuming low-fat dairy including cheese and yogurt helps prevent Alzheimer’s. Visit with your doctor about making dietary changes and what types of cheese and how much is safe for you to consume.
2Exercise at least 150 minutes per week
Many studies show that exercise can help prevent Alzheimer’s disease or slow its progression if you do have it. Regular exercise of 150 minutes per week can cut your risk of Alzheimer’s disease by up to 50%. Aim for 30 to 60 minutes, three or four days per week, combining aerobics (brisk walking, jogging, bike-riding, dancing or other activities) with strength training. Exercise may increase the part of your brain associated with memory formation, as well as combat obesity and high blood pressure, both of which are Alzheimer’s risk factors.
Cigarettes aren’t only “cancer sticks”—they also contribute to the development of Alzheimer’s disease. The World Health Organization estimates 14% of dementia cases worldwide could be due to smoking. Research shows that smokers are 40% more likely to develop Alzheimer’s than non-smokers. The risk is even higher among heavy smokers. While the reasons why are not fully understood, smoking is a significant risk factor for Alzheimer’s. If you smoke, cutting way back on your habit—or, even better, quitting altogether—may help you avoid dementia. No matter your age, it’s never too late to quit.
4Avoid heavy or binge drinking
Regular, heavy alcohol consumption increases dementia risk, experts say. Heavy drinking means more than four drinks in a day or more than 14 per week for men, and three in a day or seven in a week for women.
Binge-drinking refers to five or more drinks in two hours for men and four for women. Experts say to avoid heavy or binge-drinking, especially if you are at risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. Evidence concerning light to moderate drinking is mixed, with some studies showing it might prevent Alzheimer’s. Ask your doctor if you have questions about alcohol use.
5Stimulate your brain
Time to turn off the TV and get your brain cells busy with new tasks. Neurologists say staying mentally active can reduce your risk of Alzheimer’s disease by up to 70%. They recommend spending at least 20 minutes, three times per week, engaged in mental exercises. These include playing board games, practicing a musical instrument, doing crossword puzzles, reading, and writing. The idea is to challenge your brain with new tasks that involve one or more of your senses. This helps your brain keep old pathways alive and build new ones, which helps stave off dementia.