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Alzheimer’s Disease Prevention
There is no known way to prevent Alzheimer's disease, but you can lower your risk. Read about lifestyle changes that may help.

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Alzheimer’s disease prevention

There is no known way to prevent Alzheimer’s disease (AD). Many agencies and people are involved in research on ways to slow, delay, or prevent AD, including:

  • researchers
  • pharmaceutical companies
  • foundations
  • nonprofit organizations

Researchers are looking into a variety of Alzheimer’s treatments they think may help, including:

  • cognitive training
  • antioxidants (e.g., vitamin C, vitamin E, beta-carotene)
  • omega-3 fatty acids
  • DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) supplementation
  • hormones, type 2 diabetes treatments (insulin seems to play a role in AD)
  • exercise
  • cardiovascular treatments

Lowering your risk

There are a number of steps you can take now that may lower your risk of Alzheimer’s disease. Consult your doctor before making any major lifestyle changes.

Maintain a healthy diet

Some evidence suggests a Mediterranean diet may decrease your risk of developing AD. This diet includes little red meat and emphasizes:

  • whole grains
  • fruits and vegetables
  • fish and shellfish
  • nuts
  • olive oil
  • other healthy fats

Other studies suggest that antioxidants may affect age-related changes in the brain. Berries have been shown to improve cognitive function in rats and mice, both in animals who are aging normally and in those who have developed AD. Types of berries that may help include:

  • blueberries
  • strawberries
  • cranberries

Another study examined curcumin, the main ingredient of turmeric, the yellowish spice used in curry. It’s a powerful antioxidant. Curcumin has been shown to suppress the build-up of harmful amyloid plaques in the brains of rodents.

Keep up your mental exercise

An active brain may reduce your AD risk. Activities that help keep the brain active include:

  • listening to the radio
  • reading newspapers
  • playing puzzle games
  • visiting museums

Engaging in mental exercises seems to create or contribute to your “cognitive reserve.” In other words, you develop additional neurons and pathways in your brain. Why is this important? 

Normally, your brain has one road to transport information from point A to point B. If there’s a roadblock or a dead end, the information won’t make it. People who develop new ways of thinking through mental exercises create multiple and alternative routes in their brains. This makes it easier and faster for vital information to travel. 

To exercise your brain, try the following activities:

  • Do crossword puzzles.
  • Take up bridge.
  • Learn a new language.

Increase your social engagement

Compelling research suggests seniors who spend most of their time in their immediate home environment are almost twice as likely to develop AD compared to those who travel more. These findings, however, may also reflect the general health of the individuals.

The Mayo Clinic advises that being engaged with your surroundings is good for your mental, physical, and emotional health.

Aerobic exercise daily

When older adults with AD engage in aerobic exercise, it improves their psychological and behavioral symptoms.

According to the Mayo Clinic, there’s evidence suggesting that 30 minutes of exercise per day is crucial to preventing Alzheimer’s disease. One eight-year study examined the connection between mental function and physical activity in 6,000 women age 65 and older. It discovered that more active women were less likely to have a decline in mental functions than less active women.

Stop smoking

Smoking may increase your risk for AD and dementia. Former smokers or those who smoked less than half a pack per day do not appear to have an increased risk. If you still smoke, now is the time to quit. Talk with your doctor about methods that could work for you.

Lowering homocysteine

Homocysteine is an amino acid that’s a building block of protein. It naturally circulates in the blood. Recent studies indicate that higher than average blood levels of homocysteine is a risk factor for:

  • AD
  • vascular dementia
  • cognitive impairment

Foods high in folate (folic acid) and other B vitamins (such as B-6 and B-12) have been shown to lower homocysteine levels. Whether or not increasing these B vitamins in one’s diet might offer a protective effect for AD is yet unknown.

Some good food sources of folate include:

  • romaine lettuce
  • spinach
  • asparagus
  • broccoli
  • collard greens
  • parsley
  • cauliflower
  • beets
  • lentils 

Food sources of B-6 and B-12 include:

  • fish
  • red meat
  • potatoes
  • noncitrus fruit
  • fortified cereal
  • poultry
  • eggs 

The takeaway

Researchers don’t yet know how to prevent Alzheimer’s disease. There are a number of things you can do to lower your risk of developing the disease. Staying mentally and physically fit, eating a healthy diet, and keeping an active social life are all thought to help lower your risk of cognitive decline, including AD. Fortunately, these are all good ways to stay healthy in general. Be sure to talk with your doctor about any new lifestyle changes that you plan.

Written by: Wendy Leonard, MPH
Edited by:
Medically Reviewed by:
Published: Aug 29, 2014
Published By: Healthline Networks, Inc.
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