There’s a lot we still have to learn about Alzheimer’s. But as the most common form of dementia, it can be a scary prospect for many. In about 1% of people with the disease, Alzheimer’s comes from preexisting genetics, which the affected person has no control over.
But with the other 99%, the medical community is working hard to figure out exactly what causes it. We know that this disease leads to memory loss, impacting both behavior and thinking. But what causes it? We’re still learning. Though our knowledge of what causes Alzheimer’s is still developing, there are still some things you can do to help prevent it. Here are a few lifestyle changes you can make to decrease your risk of Alzheimer’s.
Studies show a strong association between keeping your brain active and reduced risk of Alzheimer’s. Sure, we’ve all heard that doing the crossword can help prevent dementia. Things like learning a new language, taking on a new skill, playing games, or working through puzzles can all help keep your brain engaged. Sign up for a continuing education class at the local college, or visit the library to borrow a book or two. The more you use your brain, the better off you are.
There are more ways to use your brain than just learning. Staying social has also been connected to a reduced risk of Alzheimer’s. The reason for this isn’t entirely understood, but social interaction is a key part of many sides of mental and physical health. It certainly helps stimulate your brain, and it can keep you physically active. Consider volunteering as a way to get out and meet new people, as well as spending time with friends and family.
Diet drives health in all sorts of ways. When you hope to prevent Alzheimer’s, experts recommend the Mediterranean Diet above the rest. A diet doesn’t need to sound restrictive or intimidating, though. It’s as easy as sticking to vegetables, beans, whole grains and fish, avoiding red meat and unhealthy fats as much as possible. Think of the dishes you might have in Greece or the South of France, full of fresh ingredients and vitamin-rich veggies.
Research points to an increased chance of developing dementia after suffering a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI). The biggest way to help here is by protecting yourself. Wear a helmet for sports where it’s required or recommended, like riding a bike or skiing. Wear a seatbelt. And guard against falls in your home, deicing sidewalks or installing handrails and grab bars where you need them.
Research shows that up to 80% of people with Alzheimer’s also have heart disease. And though that doesn’t mean one caused the other, focusing on your heart health will still help you in so many ways. A good place to start is focusing on a heart-healthy diet of vegetables, whole grains, limited unhealthy fats and reasonable portions. It means getting enough sleep. It can also mean a workout routine that fits your activity level and promotes cardiovascular health. If you’re not sure where to start, you can talk to your healthcare provider for recommendations.
Alzheimer’s affects your brain. And by exercising, you increase blood flow, and then oxygen levels, to your brain. It also helps out with heart health, as we talked about above. If you’re not sure where to start, you can talk to your primary care provider for some exercise ideas that suit your body and fitness level.
So much of long-term health lies in preventative care. No matter where you are on your health journey, CHP can help you stay well. Make an appointment for a checkup, and find your way to a healthy future.