Alzheimer's Disease is a form of dementia that gradually destroys our capacity to remember, to think, and even to carry out simple, everyday tasks. According to the National Institute on Aging it is the most common form of dementia and at its most severe, it has a devastating impact on quality of life.
There are some risk factors for Alzheimer's which we cannot control - such as genetics and age - but there are others that we can control. It's as simple as being conscientious about our diets and our everyday lifestyles. Below are ten scientifically proven ways that you can actively reduce your risk of developing Alzheimer's Disease:
1) Get active. The Alzheimer's Association recommends regular physical exercise as a strategy to lower the risk of Alzheimer's and vascular dementia. Your Brain Matters explains that people engaging in regular moderate-intensity physical activity have increased volume in the parts of the brain that are responsible for memory, learning, concentration and planning. This suggests that they have more brain cells and more connections between them, and have less chance of developing dementia.
2) Manage your mental health. If you think that you may be suffering from depression, it's important that you seek help no matter what the circumstances. But did you know that depression is also associated with a higher risk of developing dementia? According to Your Brain Matters, evidence is beginning to emerge about the physical effects that depression can have on the brain, leading to cognitive decline further down the track. Never hesitate to consult a health professional for advice.
3) Reach out and connect. A number of studies have shown that strong social connections lower the risk of Alzheimer's, according to the Alzheimer's Association. Although experts are not sure exactly why this is the case, they theorize that it may be due to social stimulation strengthening connections between nerve cells in our brain.
4) Look after your heart. Did you know there is a strong connection between heart health and brain health? Your Brain Matters explains that looking after your heart is the first step to looking after your brain, because the same conditions that increase risk of cardiovascular issues also increase risk of dementia. This means being aware of your blood pressure, your cholesterol, and your weight.
5) Eat brain food (or heart food). Not surprisingly, then, food that is good for your heart is also good for your brain. It's all about keeping your arteries clean and encouraging good blood flow through your brain cells. WebMD suggests eating lots of fruit and vegetables, high-fiber foods and whole grains, nuts and olive oils, healthy fats, plenty of fish and omega-3 oils.
6) Avoid refined carbohydrates. Psychology Today explains that there is a clear link between diabetes and Alzheimer's, and therefore we need to consider how much sugar we are consuming in the form of refined carbs. You can read more about the dangers of insulin resistance here. Refined carbohydrates are sugars and starches which do not come in the form of a natural whole food. So while fruit and sweet potatoes are examples of good sugars and starches, juice boxes and pasta are examples of bad ones. You can see a full list here, but it's actually quite simple if you focus on eating fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and fresh meat and seafood.
7) Get smart. The Alzheimer's Association emphasize that this simply means engaging and challenging your brain regularly. This can mean enrolling in formal education, but it can also mean completing a jigsaw puzzle, building something from IKEA, painting, or even playing cards. Challenging your mind has both short and long-term benefits for your brain.
8) Follow the MIND diet. We've already talked about eating heart-healthy foods, but WebMD also suggests trying a specific diet called the MIND diet. A study has shown people who stuck closely to the diet reduced their risk of Alzheimer's by a whopping 54%. And believe it or not, it's actually a very simple diet full of delicious foods from ten different food groups - and you're even allowed a glass of wine each day. You can see details of the MIND diet here.
9) Protect your head. Head injuries are associated with a higher risk of dementia, according to Your Brain Matters. Reducing this risk can be as simple as wearing a helmet when engaging in risky physical activities and keeping your home free of fall-hazards.
10) Quit smoking. Smoking is bad for us on all counts. It increases our risk of cognitive decline, it's bad for our hearts and our lungs - the list goes on. There is some good news, though - The Alzheimer's Association states that even if you have been a smoker, quitting can reduce your risk of Alzheimer's right back down to where it was before you smoked.
Alzheimer's is a disease we think only happens to the elderly, but studies have shown that our brains can begin to suffer before we experience any noticeable symptoms. A healthy brain is so important to a healthy and happy life, so let's all take positive steps towards looking after our most important asset. Embrace a healthy diet, plenty of exercises and an active mind, and you can rest easy knowing that you're doing the best for your brain.