While you may not have full control over whether or not you or a loved one will develop Alzheimer’s, as much as 60% of your overall risk of developing this disease depends on factors that you can impact through diet, exercise, and lifestyle changes. Here are a few steps you can take to reduce your risk.
- Get basic blood tests regularly. Monitoring your cholesterol, blood glucose, and homocysteine levels provides essential information on your overall health and how high your risk level is for Alzheimer’s and many other diseases. The good news is that with your doctor’s help, you can address these results if they are outside of the normal range.
- Keep your blood pressure and body-mass index (BMI) under control. Lower blood pressure and lower BMI each reduce your risk for a host of diseases and medical problems. Again, keeping these numbers within normal ranges is something you can address with the help of your doctor.
- Keep up your muscle mass and stay fit. Older adults lose one percent of muscle mass per year – and this loss of muscle can have a big impact on your overall health, weight, and immune function. Incorporating both aerobic and resistance or weight training activities into your regular routine can help you hold on to your muscle and prevent the gain of dangerous belly fat.
- Eat right. While there is certainly no one miracle food or miracle diet, there are definite eating choices that lead to a healthier you in terms of weight, muscle, and organ function. Your brain and body both benefit from lots of vegetables, beans, whole grains, nuts, and seeds along with lean protein highlighting fish. Fresh dairy (calcium is essential) and healthy fats like olive oil are also important.
- Get enough sleep. More and more research is highlighting the importance of getting enough sleep in maintaining health and preventing diseases such as Alzheimer’s. It’s important to get at least 8 hours of sleep each night. For those who find this challenging, consider setting a consistent bedtime and nightly routine that includes ditching the TV, computer, or phone for relaxing activities such as a warm bath or reading actual books.
- Manage stress. Recent research has shown a strong correlation between stress and aging – particularly when it comes to your brain. Find ways to counter home and work stress with activities like yoga, tai chi, meditation, and frequent vacations.
- Maintain healthy relationships. Having hobbies and an active social life challenges your brain and keeps you learning. In fact, any type of positive social interactions – including those with family or church groups – have a positive, protective effect on your brain.
- See your dentist and eye doctor regularly. If left untreated, eye disease, gum disease, and tooth decay can all cause inflammation which puts a strain on your entire immune system and overall body and brain functions. Diagnosing and treating these conditions can reverse this impact.
- Don’t smoke. Smoking raises your risk for virtually every type of disease or medical problem, especially those related to aging; so if you do smoke, your first step should be to quit.
- Take cognitive tests regularly. Changes in your cognitive ability can be an early indicator of the onset of Alzheimer’s or other diseases. The sooner you recognize and address any changes, the better your prognosis will be.
Even one of these simple strategies can lower your overall risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease, and all together they will work to keep you your healthiest, most vital self for a long time to come. And for information on getting the in-home help you need if a loved one who has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, simply contact Specialty Care Services today.