Developing Alzheimer’s is one of the worst fears for many people, but there is still a lot we don’t know about what causes dementia. We know there are risk factors, both genetic and environmental, but the question is: Can we prevent it? While we don’t have set-in-stone answers to these questions just yet, the thinking around dementia prevention has changed significantly in the last 15 years. Scientists used to think it couldn’t be prevented, but the evidence is mounting that many lifestyle factors really do contribute to whether someone gets Alzheimer’s, and that these can be much more influential than any genetic risk.
That’s good news for people who want to take their health into their own hands (and why wouldn’t you?). To keep your brain vibrant, healthy, quick, sharp, and young, these are five evidence-based strategies that could make a meaningful difference in whether or not you ever develop Alzheimer’s disease.
1. Eat Mediterranean
Fact: People who eat a Mediterranean diet regularly (rather than just dipping in and out of it) have lower dementia rates. Eating in this style generally includes eating seafood a few times per week, lots of fresh vegetables and fruit, and whole foods almost exclusively, with very low intake of red meat, sugar, refined grains, and dairy (excepting fermented dairy products like yogurt). The Mediterranean diet also utilizes olive oil (not butter) as the primary fat, and may include one small glass of red wine a few times a week, up to daily (that part is not required unless you are already a drinker).
2. Do Cardio
Studies show that regular cardio reduces the risk of dementia, and in those with a genetic propensity (the apoe-4 gene), 30 to 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous cardio on most days could significantly reduce or even eliminate the elevated risk!
3. Keep Your Friends Close
Research has shown that those with close social connections, including family and supportive friends, lowers the risk of developing dementia. On the flip side, isolation and loneliness increase the risk.
4. Achieve Your “Normal BMI” Goal
Many people know they could stand to drop a few excess pounds, but here’s a good reason to get on that ASAP: People with a normal BMI have much lower dementia rates than people with obesity. Obesity is also a risk factor for diabetes, and people with diabetes have much higher Alzheimer’s rates.
5. Sleep More
We now know that during the deep stage of sleep, the glymphatic system in the brain clears out waste, including the waste that accumulates and damages the brains of people with Alzheimer’s. People are most likely to get the most deep sleep when they go to bed by 10 or 11 pm. Stay up past midnight and you may chronically short yourself of valuable, brain-cleaning deep sleep. So get out of that late-night habit. Wind down, turn off screens, and tuck in by 10, and you could save your brain.
Final Words From The Doctor
The bottom line is that many aspects of your health, now and in your future, are completely under your control, so those are the ones to focus on. I can think of few things more important than caring for your brain, and you can start by working on these five lifestyle changes today. You could not only ward of Alzheimer’s in your future, but you are likely to notice major brain benefits, like quicker thinking, better memory, and better concentration, almost immediately.