5 Ways To…Reduce Your Risk for Alzheimer’s
In honor of September being World Alzheimer’s Month, read these expert tips to limit your chances of developing this common form of dementia.
More than 5 million Americans suffer from Alzheimer’s disease—180,000 of them living in New Jersey—so the chances are high that you know someone affected by the disorder. And though those with loved ones who are suffering are confronted with its challenges daily, September is officially World Alzheimer’s Month, when we try to raise awareness and challenge the stigma surrounding dementia internationally.
“It’s a neurological disease where the neurons in the brain are dying, and we can’t stop the progression right now,” says Kenneth Zaentz, president and CEO of Alzheimer’s New Jersey. “It’s not just memory loss. It becomes problems with spatial relations, communication, behavior and eventually the person with Alzheimer’s disease dies.”
Zaentz adds that Alzheimer’s is the seventh leading cause of death in New Jersey, and Bergen County—which has the largest senior population in the state—has the highest incidence of the disease. “People don’t recognize it as the serious disease it is,” he adds. “The disease has proved to be much more difficult than we originally thought and there is no stopping it.”
Although there is no way to prevent this progressive disease completely (or stop it once a diagnosis is made, unfortunately), there are things you can do now to lower your chances of getting diagnosed as you age. Here are a few to keep in mind:
- Stick to a healthy diet. In his book The End of Alzheimer’s, brain expert Dale Bredesen, M.D., says to opt for a diet that incorporates ketosis, the process in which your liver produces specific chemicals by breaking down fat. This generally means to load up on cooked and uncooked non-starchy vegetables. Of course, eating balanced meals filled with fruits and vegetables and low in fried and salty foods can reduce the risk of many conditions, but vegetables are especially imperative to brain health.
- Reduce your stress. Easier said than done, we know, but research shows that those who are prone to psychological distress have a higher risk of memory loss problems and even Alzheimer’s disease.
- Determine your predisposition to the disease. If a relative has been diagnosed or is exhibiting symptoms, talk to your doctor about getting a new innovative test done called Alzheimer’s LINX. It can detect your predisposition to early onset Alzheimer’s.
- Get enough sleep. Lack of sleep can impair brain function and focus for anybody, but a good night’s rest is even more imperative for those at risk of Alzheimer’s. Why? The brain will not be able to function at its highest capacity and can suffer long-term effects if one continuously tries to get through each day without enough shut-eye.
- Stay active and exercise. Did you know that regular exercise can reduce your risk of developing Alzheimer’s by up to 50 percent? And by “regular,” experts recommend 30 minutes of moderately vigorous aerobic exercise 3-4 days per week. “Now there is more and more evidence showing that what is important to physical health is also important to brain health,” says Zaentz. “But does this delay the onset of Alzheimer’s? That’s the part we don’t know.”