Nowadays, it seems like everything is “genetic.” But, when it comes to Alzheimer’s Disease, the Mayo Clinic reports that only about 5% of the cases are thought to be hereditary. It turns out that the things correlated with dementia are also correlated with heart disease. And things that make for a full and healthy life are also correlated with a healthy brain. So, while there is no sure-fire way to avoid dementia problems like Alzheimer’s disease, you cannot be harmed trying some of these tips to not only stay healthy overall - but possibly improve your chances of keeping your brain healthy as well.
Tips for a Healthy Brain
- Don’t Smoke: Researchers have found evidence that smokers have a higher chance of getting Alzheimer’s Disease than non-smokers. If quitting were easy, few people would keep smoking. Seek out help from your doctor, information, and tips if you would like to quit smoking for good.
- Exercise: People who are moderately active (walking for example) for 30 minutes a day dramatically reduce their likelihood of developing Alzheimer’s disease. Always consult a doctor before undertaking a new exercise routine.
- Diet: While there are people who claim certain supplements and specific foods can improve brain health, The American Health Assistance Foundation reports that the Mediterranean Diet is thought to protect us not only from heart disease, but also from vascular dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease. Mediterranean diets include a heavy emphasis on whole grains, vegetables and fruits and limited amounts of animal products and lean meats. The less processed the food, the better for our bodies. Trying to eat foods that come in their most original state (for example, raw blueberries rather than blueberry pie!) are less likely to contain added trans fats, sugars, and chemical preservatives. One type of dementia which is reversible is caused by a lack of certain types of vitamins. One way to protect against nutritional-deficiency related dementia is to have a wide variety of healthy plant-based foods daily. See your doctor before changing your diet or taking any over-the-counter supplements as some of these may cause problems for some people.
- Social and Mental Stimulation: Dr. Friedland, from Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine, found that those people studied who had hobbies like gardening or playing a musical instrument, were less likely than others to develop dementia. Likewise, Dr. David Bennett also found that social engagement slows down or reduces the likelihood of developing Alzheimer’s Disease. The idea of “Use it or Lose It” seems to apply to the brain.
- Controlling Our Numbers: When our other numbers are high, so is our risk for developing Alzheimer’s Disease: High blood pressure, high cholesterol, and a high number on the scale. Also, poorly controlled diabetes is linked to an increase in dementia. So, if you have any of these issues like diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or are overweight, seek medical help and follow your doctor’s orders to keep these numbers in check.
While unfortunately the number one risk factor for developing dementia and especially Alzheimer’s Disease is age – and we cannot do anything about that – we can keep our bodies and minds healthy to reduce our risk as much as possible.