Alzheimer’s disease now affects more than 5 million Americans, and research projects that number will triple to more than 15 million by 2050. This dreaded memory-robbing disease is feared more than any other disease by most people, as it hits at the core of our being, stealing treasured experiences and our most basic identity.
While there is a genetic link for a small subset of patients who develop Alzheimer’s disease, the vast majority are victims of poor lifestyle choices which are at the root of this condition. As medical science races to find a pharmaceutical cure, experts agree that there are a number of healthy changes which should be adopted to dramatically reduce the risk of falling victim to this insidious affliction.
Controlling the Risk Factors
Four key factors have been identified which directly affect the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease:
• Chronic stress throughout adult life quadruples incidence in later life.
• Obesity in midlife increases Alzheimer’s disease by 3 ½ times.
• Uncontrolled diabetes is related to a twofold increase in disease
• Smoking ups the risk factor by 79%
Each of these factors can and should be controlled to dramatically reduce or virtually eliminate the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. Many of the top diseases which claim the lives of Americans today are caused by poor diet and lifestyle, including heart disease, cancer, diabetes and stroke. Prevention is the key, as all of these diseases are much more difficult to treat once they’re diagnosed. Making relatively simple changes earlier in life can have a profound effect on development of Alzheimer’s disease and longevity.
Exercise Your Body and Brain
Physical activity is good for both the muscles and the brain. Exercise helps regulate blood sugar uptake to the cells and insulin sensitivity, and both when poorly controlled contribute to diabetes and Alzheimer’s risk. Moderate cardio and resistance training on most days of the week helps build muscle mass and improves cognitive health. To exercise the brain, pick up a good book or challenge yourself by learning a new skill. Forcing the brain to build new memory pathways will assist short term memory and improve retention.
Adopt a Healthy Diet
Reduce total calories consumed and eliminate refined carbohydrates, sugary drinks and pastries. Many refer to Alzheimer’s disease as “diabetes of the brain”, as it is characterized by inflammation and insulin resistance which affects communications between neurons. Diet is the best way to reduce these risks. Eat a rainbow of different raw vegetables, nuts, seeds and unprocessed or cooked oils. Be sure to include Omega-3 fats from fish or fish oil supplements, as these provide the building blocks for brain cell wall construction.
Relax and Reduce Stress Factors
Lifelong, chronic stress appears to have a significant impact on the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. Stress increases cortisol, a powerful hormone which can hamper nerve cell growth and connections, leading to cognitive decline. Learn breathing techniques which increase brain oxygen levels and attenuate your response to stress. Take a 30 minute walk, meditate or learn yoga,as all are proven to reduce the stress factors that lead to disease proliferation.
Shield Your Brain
The brain is an amazing organ which is well protected by the skull and the blood-brain barrier. Still, it is vulnerable to physical injury and toxic assault. Always protect your head when competing in injury prone sporting events or when riding a bike or motorcycle. Research shows that a single traumatic brain injury early in life can double the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease as you age. Get rid of synthetic toxic chemicals from around the house, including cleaning supplies, detergents and personal care items in favor of natural, organic substitutes. Over the course of decades, these chemicals build up in your tissues and can lead to dementia.
There are important steps which we all should take to reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. It’s now understood that this form of dementia is largely caused by factors which are well within our control, and we can take charge of our diet and lifestyle to prevent our chances of becoming a grim statistic.