Alzheimer’s disease is the #6 cause of death in the U.S. with its “contribution” of over a hundred thousand deaths per year. Alzheimer’s disease is also ahead of other major health issues such as diabetes, nephritis, and influenza.
What’s probably most terrifying about Alzheimer’s is that it can’t really be cured yet. Yes, there are certain treatments that can help. There are even some curious new things scientists are experimenting with such as light and sound treatments (3), alternative medicine, etc. But there’s no surefire way to deal with the disease yet.
Fortunately, this doesn’t make us helpless. Instead of just sitting on our hands and hoping scientists will figure it out by the time we get older, we can take active steps to prevent the disease from ever affecting us in the first place.
A recent large study, published in the Journal of Neurology Neurosurgery and Psychiatry, determined which are the 10 keys to Alzheimer’s prevention we can all follow:
- Keep our cognitive activity high
- Maintain low homocysteine levels with the help of vitamins B
- Regulating our weight and BMI (Body mass index)
- Maintain good mental health and avoid depression
- Keep our stress levels low
- Diabetes prevention as they’ve have been shown to be related (7)
- Keep our blood pressure low, especially in our midlife period
- Avoid Orthostatic hypotension – a condition characterized by low blood pressure and dizziness when getting up
- Don’t stop learning, i.e. focus on continuous education even in your adult years
- Try to avoid traumas to the head
So, what are the good news and the bad news from this list?
The bad news is that these 10 steps require a great deal of commitment. For many living in the fast lane doing all these requires major lifestyle changes and that’s not easy to do.
The good news is that doing these things is great for your overall health as well. According to CDC’s mortality statistics, Alzheimer’s is not the only big killer in the U.S. Most of the other major causes of death can also be alleviated by the same steps that work for Alzheimer’s disease. This means that the lifestyle changes above won’t only protect you against this one health issue but from others as well.
Actionable Brain-protection Plan
The 10 points mentioned above are scientifically proven but some of them can be a bit tricky to translate into actual steps. So, here are the main things experts recommend we implement in our lives to prevent Alzheimer’s disease:
1. Exercise regularly. Many of us are tired of hearing about exercise – it’s good for this, for that, for anything from Alzheimer’s to skincare, and so on. There is a reason we constantly keep hearing and reading about exercise. It works. Fortunately, with Alzheimer’s it doesn’t just work but it’s also not something overly complicated – all you need is 30 to 60 minutes of light cardio exercise 4 to 6 times a week. A morning run here, a swim there, even simple yoga can be great according to the Alzheimer’s Research & Prevention Foundation.
There are multiple reasons why regular cardio exercises are good. They:
- Keep our weight and BMI low.
- Maintain your cardiovascular system in tip-top shape.
- Stimulate your mind.
That last point is something most people don’t often think about but cardio exercises have been shown to be great for our brains in a very straightforward way and not just indirectly.
2. Switch to a healthy diet. Dieting is most people’s stumbling block when it comes to health. Unfortunately, it’s a must-have for adequate Alzheimer’s prevention. The short and easy tip for a healthy diet is to avoid processed food and to drastically lower the amount of sugar you eat.
If/when you’re ready to take your diet even more seriously, there are many basic things you can do:
- Include more green leafy vegetables in your daily diet as well as other vegetables at least once more per day.
- At least 3 servings of whole-grain foods every day.
- No more than 3-4 servings of red meat per week.
- Nuts and seeds at least once per day.
- Fish at least a couple of times per week.
- Avoid fried and fast food.
- No more than one glass of alcohol per day.
- Limit your sugar intake.
- Cook with olive oil and avoid margarine, and other unhealthy oils.
3. Use your brain more. This quite simply means introducing some mental exercises into your life. TV may be fun but our brains also need to work harder from time to time. This can include anything from (good) books and video games to actual puzzles, IQ tests, and other cognitive exercises. This is also where education comes in – people who continue their formal education into their adult life typically have much better cognitive and physical health, not to mention richer social lives.
4. Manage your stress and mood. It’s well-known by now that excessive stress is a major issue that affects most aspects of our health. Naturally, our cognitive health is no exception and the correlation between stress and Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia is well-documented.
As an extension of stress, other mood and mental/emotional issues can cause problems too. Anxiety and depression are on the rise in the U.S.
Another factor that can be mentioned here is the quality of our sleep. Having a regular and healthy sleeping cycle is a great way to prevent Alzheimer’s and dementia.
5. Social interactions. As an extension of the previous two points, having regular and positive social interactions is also a great step to avoiding Alzheimer’s. This is simply because adequate social interactions both stimulate our brain functions and help boost our mood and mental health.
6. Powerful brain nutrients. Almost every food supplement bottle has a label that reads “This supplement can’t replace a healthy diet” or something along those lines. And it’s true – food supplements are no replacement for regular exercise, healthy eating, and active social life which is why we’re mentioning them last.
However, they can still be of great help in conjunction with everything else. For Alzheimer’s in particular, the main food supplements most experts recommend are the following:
- B vitamins for maintaining good homocysteine levels.
- Omega 3 fish oil provides crucial fatty acids for great brain health.
- Creatine is an amino acid that supports both energy production and good brain health.
- Antioxidants such as vitamins A and C are also strongly recommended.
- CoQ10 is another powerful antioxidant that deserves a mention as do polyphenols and carotenes.
- Curcumin, bacopa, and other herbs that act as antioxidants and/or reduce inflammation are also helpful.
Of course, there are even more things that can be done. For example, a recent report found a link between Alzheimer’s and some dental issues, which makes good dental care another good tool for Alzheimer’s prevention. But the points mentioned above are generally viewed as the main things we should do to prevent this condition.