November is known as Alzheimer’s Awareness Month. While you’re probably already familiar with the signs and symptoms of this disease, you may not know how to prevent it. The issue of whether or not Alzheimer’s disease can be prevented has plagued doctors, researchers and scientists for years.
While preventing Alzheimer’s may not be an exact science at this point in our understanding of the disease, several risk factors have been associated with Alzheimer’s in recent years. Understanding and minimizing exposure to these risk factors can help you and your loved ones prevent or delay symptoms. Learn more about how you can keep your family healthy this Alzheimer’s Awareness Month.
Understanding the Root Causes of Alzheimer’s Disease
Like most chronic conditions, Alzheimer’s disease is typically the result of numerous factors, including a person’s age, genetics, existing medical conditions, and a range of environmental and lifestyle factors. Some of these risk factors can be changed or prevented, such as a person’s home or work environment and their various lifestyle habits, while others cannot, such as a person’s genes.
A small percentage of those with the disease have what’s known as early-onset Alzheimer’s, which is associated with genetic mutations. Those with early-onset Alzheimer’s are guaranteed to get the disease, but numerous tests are being done to see if antibodies can help slow its progression, including an ongoing clinical trial conducted by the Dominantly Inherited Alzheimer Network (DIAN). While the results of these tests remain unclear, they may ultimately help delay or even prevent certain symptoms in those with early-onset Alzheimer’s.
As you can see, preventing Alzheimer’s disease isn’t always possible, but you and your loved ones can reduce your risk by adhering to the latest prevention recommendations from the medical community.
Preventing Alzheimer’s Disease
- Diet and Exercise
According to the Alzheimer’s Association, the best two ways to prevent the disease is to maintain a healthy diet and exercise regularly. Leading a sedentary lifestyle and eating a diet that’s high in sugar and fat can increase your risk of Alzheimer’s disease. You and your loved ones should try to exercise several times a week.
Stick to a diet with lots of fresh vegetables, fruits, water, lean protein, fat-free or low-fat dairy products, whole grains and nuts. Avoid overly sweet beverages and processed foods that are high in sodium.
Maintaining a healthy diet and exercising regularly will also help reduce your risk of high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes and high cholesterol, all of which can increase your risk of Alzheimer’s. Some autopsy studies show that as many as 80% of individuals with Alzheimer’s disease also have cardiovascular disease.
- Social Activity
Studies also show that maintaining a healthy social life can also help prevent Alzheimer’s disease. The disease slowly wears away at cognitive function, so keeping your brain active and stimulated can help reduce your risk. Encourage your family members to socialize regularly with their friends, neighbors, and loved ones. If you’re worried about the cognitive health of your loved ones, spend more time talking to them or take them out for a day out on the town.
Experts aren’t sure why social activity can help prevent or reduce the effects of Alzheimer’s, but it might have something to do with the fact that social and mental stimulation strengthen the connections between nerve cells in the brain.
- Protecting Your Head
Serious head trauma can also lead to Alzheimer’s Disease.
You and your loved ones should always wear a seatbelt when driving or riding in a motor vehicle. Make sure your home and the homes of your loved ones are fall-proof. Keep objects low to the ground to prevent trips and falls. Use rugs and other textured surfaces to avoid slipping and falling. Shower tub handles and chairs can also help you and your loved ones avoid falling in the shower.
Make sure you and your loved ones wear a helmet when riding a bike or playing contact sports, like football.
10 Ways to Love Your Brain
To help reduce the number of cases in the U.S., the Alzheimer’s Association recently put together a list of “10 Ways to Love Your Brain”, a series of lifestyle changes that can help prevent the disease. They include:
- Breaking a sweat
- Reading more books
- Quitting smoking
- Checking for high blood pressure, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease
- Wearing a helmet
- Eating a balanced diet
- Getting a full night’s sleep
- Maintaining your mental health
- Participating in social activities
- Challenging your mind by completing puzzles, games and other mental challenges
Celebrate Alzheimer’s Awareness Month by spreading the word about Alzheimer’s prevention. These changes will help you keep your brain healthy and active for years to come.