Now that you have reached a stage in life where estate planning makes sense – that is, adulthood — it’s not too early or too late to try to keep yourself mentally alert and healthy as you grow older. One of the big health problems people worry about is developing Alzheimer’s disease. One in 10 Americans who are 65 or over has Alzheimer’s. One-third of Americans over age 85 has Alzheimer’s. It is the sixth largest cause of death in the United States, and the only one of the top 10 causes that can’t be cured, slowed or reliably prevented. Although Alzheimer’s cannot be prevented, you may be able to reduce the risks by making wise lifestyle choices according to the Mayo Clinic, Harvard Medical School and other experts. This is particularly important for women, who make up two-thirds of Alzheimer’s sufferers.
What Is Alzheimer’s Disease
Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia. It is caused by proteins that accumulate in the brain which are tangles (tau) and plaques (amyloid-beta). Eventually, Alzheimer’s kills brain cells, and sufferers die from the disease. Genetics as well as lifestyle, brain inflammation and vascular risk factors all play a role. If you forget where you put your keys once in a while, that’s not a cause to worry. But if you forget what you should do with keys, then you should be screened immediately for Alzheimer’s. Other symptoms include difficulties handing household accounting, mood changes, personality changes and taking an unusually long time to complete your normal, every day tasks.
Steps You Can Take to Reduce Alzheimer’s Risks
Though nothing is guaranteed to prevent Alzheimer’s, living a healthy life may reduce your risks not just of developing Alzheimer’s but also of developing other diseases.
- Exercise: The most important thing you can do to reduce your chances of getting Alzheimer’s is to regularly do aerobic exercise. A study has shown that walking increases the size of the part of the brain associated with memory, the . Exercise also strengthens neural cell connections and decreases inflammation. Generally, 30 minutes of moderately vigorous aerobic exercise three or four days a week is recommended, but, of course, talk to your doctor before starting a new exercise regime
- Get a Good Night’s Sleep: Getting enough sleep can help to clear plaque from your brain. Try for seven or eight hours every night.
- Eat Right: Eat a diet rich in fresh vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, omega-3 fatty acids and lean protein. Olive oil and moderate amounts of poultry, fish, dairy and red wine are good, but go light on the red meat. In other words, check out the popular and delicious Mediterranean diet.
- Keep Your Stress to a Low Roar: High stress has been linked with increased risks of both cancer and Alzheimer’s due to oxidative damage. Exercise, psychotherapy and meditation can all help to reduce your stress.
- Stay Mentally Active: Do things that will stimulate your cognitive abilities and your memory. For example, take classes, do puzzles, get your brain working.
- Stay Socially Active: Observational studies suggest that greater social contact reduces the risks of developing Alzheimer’s. So, go to that weekly card game, throw a party and call your friends.
- Have a Glass of Wine; Then Stop: There may be some benefit to moderate alcoholic intake, particularly wine. “Moderate” means one drink per day for women and one to two for men.
- Keep Vascular Risk Factors Under Control: Hypertension and high cholesterol may make you more prone to develop Alzheimer’s.
- Don’t Smoke: Smoking puts you at increased risk for many health problems including Alzheimer’s.
- Take Care of Your Mental Health: Mental health issues, especially depression, are a factor in developing Alzheimer’s.
No Guarantees, but Well Worth It
Practicing these suggestions are no guarantee you will never get Alzheimer’s. But living a healthy lifestyle may help you to reduce Alzheimer’s risks and those of other chronic health problems. Alzheimer’s is a horrible disease both for the sufferer and their family. It only makes sense to take what preventive measures are possible.