6 Ways to Protect Yourself Against Alzheimer’s
(BlackDoctor.org) — We all want to dodge the Alzheimer’s bullet. And for lucky us, Mother Nature has counterbalanced the power of our genes by allowing multiple lifestyle choices to greatly influence our aging.
Therefore, your destiny is not fated; you do have some control.
Yes, genes are powerful forces, but they “are not even the dominant factor” for the vast majority of people. Here are some actionable factors that can help your brain stay healthy over the long term.
1. Physical activity
Research suggests that regular aerobic activity—like running, walking, or bicycling, which require oxygen to produce energy—may do a better job of protecting brain function than non-aerobic activity, which does not recruit oxygen and uses short bursts of motion (golf, tennis, and lifting weights). The Alzheimer’s Association advises picking activities you like and doing them regularly for at least 30 minutes a day.
2. Weight control
The heavier a person is, the more likely he or she may be to develop Alzheimer’s. Research found that the brains of older individuals who were obese (with a body mass index over 30) had approximately 8 percent less brain volume than subjects of normal weight (BMI between 18.5 and 25). When brain-volume loss reaches about 10 percent, symptoms like memory trouble or confusion appear. Earlier studies have suggested that people who are obese in midlife have a threefold increased risk of developing Alzheimer’s, and those who are overweight (considered a BMI between 25 and 30) have a twofold increased risk.
3. Mental challenges
No, it’s not just about doing crosswords—though puzzles do fall into the category. The brain’s ability to reorganize neural pathways with new information or experiences means it’s regularly changing; we can even generate new brain cells. But you need to work it. The general guideline is to regularly engage in “some kind of new learning that challenges you.” No one knows exactly what works, though population research has shown that having more years of formal education seems to be protective. Folks with lots of schooling can still get Alzheimer’s, but the disease may appear later.
4. Social connections
Research has found that people with larger social networks, while they had similar amounts of the plaques and tangles of Alzheimer’s as did more isolated people, were less affected cognitively. And separate research suggests that psychological distress over the long term significantly raises a person’s risk of developing Alzheimer’s. This kind of interaction may stimulate the brain to make new connections” that perhaps help compensate for decline.
5. Healthy diet
While the evidence doesn’t offer up any recipes for success, the general recommendation is to get plenty of veggies and fruits with dark skins, like spinach, beets, red bell peppers, onions, eggplants, prunes, blackberries, strawberries, red grapes, oranges, and cherries, according to the Alzheimer’s Association. Some evidence suggests green, leafy cruciferous vegetables, in particular, are helpful. Eating fish high in omega-3 fatty acids may be beneficial. So may some nuts, such as almonds, walnuts, and pecans, that have high levels of vitamin E, an antioxidant. Research suggets that the Mediterranean diet appears to be protective against Alzheimer’s. Some animal research has shown that curcumin, which is in the curry spice turmeric, suppresses the buildup of beta-amyloid, a main component in the harmful plaques in the Alzheimer’s-afflicted brain.
6. Chronic disease control
High blood pressure in old age is a very strong risk factor for developing Alzheimer’s later on, but if you can keep the blood pressure down, that decreases your risk. And a study published in the journal Dementia & Geriatric Cognitive Disorders found that people in their 40s who had mildly elevated cholesterol were at greater risk of developing Alzheimer’s later in life. A sizable body of evidence suggests that type 2 diabetes and heart disease affect the brain and perhaps the development or severity of Alzheimer’s.