Alzheimer's Prevention: What Can I Do?
Can I Prevent Alzheimer's?
An Alzheimer’s disease (AD) diagnosis can be very frightening. This is especially true if you’ve ever seen first-hand how devastating the disease can be as it progresses to its final stages. Whether you’ve watched a friend or a family member suffer with AD, it can be a difficult journey.
Click through this slideshow to learn what you can do to prevent Alzheimer’s disease.
What Is Alzheimer’s Disease?
AD is a degenerative brain disorder that breaks down and destroys brain cells and the neurons that connect them. This damage causes a decline in memory, behavior, and mental capabilities.
Every person’s journey with AD is different. For some, the disease progresses slowly and leaves mental function largely in tact for several years. For others, AD is aggressive and quickly robs them of their memory.
In the end, AD eventually becomes severe enough to disrupt day-to-day life. In the latter stages of the disease, patients will need almost constant care.
Know Your Risk Factors
Several factors put you at a greater risk for developing AD. These include:
- Age. Most diagnoses come after 65 years old. The older you get, the higher your risk. According to the Mayo Clinic, half of individuals over 85 have AD.
- Gender. Women are more likely to develop AD.
- Previous memory problems and head traumas. People who have had memory problems, cognitive impairments, or head trauma in the past are at an increased risk for developing AD later.
- History of heart disease. According to the Mayo Clinic, the same factors that increase your risk for heart disease may also increase your risk for developing AD.
Can Alzheimer’s Disease Be Prevented?
The short answer is no. Despite decades of research and study, scientists do not know how to prevent or cure this brain disease. However, research has discovered several healthy living practices that might have a beneficial effect.
Try some of the following healthy habits and you may help ward off AD.
Focus on Fish
Researchers found that a diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids might help protect your brain against cognitive decline and AD. In a study from the Columbia University Medical Center, people who consumed 1 gram of omega-3s each day had lower levels of an unhealthy protein linked to AD. Omega-3s are found in foods such as fish and nuts.
It’s also important to eat a well-balanced diet. Eat more plants and fewer animal products. Avoid unhealthy saturated fats such as those found in some dairy foods, meat, and butter.
Be Good to Your Heart
Several of the risk factors for high blood pressure and heart disease are also risk factors for AD. Making lifestyle changes to prevent one of these diseases may help you prevent another.
Risk factors include:
- a sedentary lifestyle
- history of smoking
- an unhealthy diet
- high blood pressure
- high cholesterol
- poorly controlled diabetes
Socialize for Your Brain’s Sake
Staying mentally and socially active is important throughout your life. According to the Mayo Clinic, research has shown that lifelong mental and social stimulation can reduce your risk of AD.
Activities that keep your brain active include:
- a mentally stimulating job that keeps you interested and active
- advanced education, such as college degrees and extended learning classes
- having friends and engaging in social activities
- partaking in mentally-challenging activities such as reading, doing puzzles, or playing games
Talk to Your Doctor About Medication
A few medications might help reduce your risk for Alzheimer’s disease. These medicines include nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as Advil. A class of medications called statin drugs may help too. Statin drugs are typically prescribed to treat high cholesterol, but they may help reduce your risk of AD.
Before beginning a medicine regimen, talk with your doctor and healthcare providers about the risks and rewards of taking medications as a preventative measure.
What You Can Do Now
The most important thing you can do to prevent Alzheimer’s disease is to take care of yourself. Currently, doctors and researchers do not know how to prevent AD. However, the majority of studies point to one thing: a healthy lifestyle might lower your risk. Many of the same strategies for maintaining a healthy life can also help you prevent other chronic diseases and conditions.
- NINDS Alzheimer's Disease Information Page. (2013, 5 Nov.) National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, National Institutes of Health. Retrieved November 10, 2013 from http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/alzheimersdisease/alzheimersdisease.htm.
- Gu, Y., Schupf, N., Cosentino, S.A., Luchsinger, J.A., Scarmeas, N. (2012, 5 June.) Nutrient intake and plasma β-amyloid. Neurology, 78(23), 1832-1840. Retrieved November 10, 2013 from http://www.neurology.org/content/78/23/1832.
- Alzheimer's disease: Risk factors. (2013, 19 Jan.) Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. Retrieved November 14, 2013 from http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/alzheimers-disease/DS00161/DSECTION=risk-factors.
- Vlad, S., Miller, D., Kowall, N., Felson, D. (2008, 6 May.) Protective effects of NSAIDs on the development of Alzheimer disease. Neurology, 70(19), 1672-1677. Retrieved November 10, 2013 from http://www.neurology.org/content/70/19/1672.
- Alzheimer’s disease: Prevention. (2013, 19 Jan.) Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. Retrieved November 14, 2013 from http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/alzheimers-disease/DS00161/DSECTION=prevention.