Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia in older adults and while some treatments can slow down its symptoms, there is no cure. Anyone who has cared for someone with Alzheimer’s can attest to the devastating toll the disease can take on family members, emotionally, physically, and financially.
Genetics are thought to be present in about 1% of cases, but the cause of Alzheimer’s disease is still unknown. Genetic, environmental, medical conditions such as diabetes, vascular disease, and lifestyle factors may all play a role. Alzheimer’s causes irreversible changes in the brain but symptoms may not be evident for many years.
A growing body of evidence points to certain lifestyle habits that may reduce the risk of getting Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia. The jury is still out as to whether healthy lifestyle choices will prevent Alzheimer’s, but the following can prevent other chronic problems and contribute to healthy aging:
- Regular exercise: Physical activity has a number of health benefits including increased endurance and energy, improved mood, and reduced risk of certain cancers and conditions such as diabetes, obesity, and heart disease.
- Adequate sleep: Restful sleep of 7 – 8 hours a night for adults is essential for learning, memory, good emotional health, and the immune system. Conversely, chronic lack of sleep is linked to a greater risk for heart disease, cancer, depression, and weight gain. Good sleep habits are vital at all stages of life.
- Healthy diet: A diet high in fruits, vegetables, whole grains and nuts, such as the Mediterranean diet, may reduce the risk of cognitive decline. Cut back on added sugar, saturated fats, and sodium. In addition, don’t smoke and limit alcohol use.
- Mentally stimulating pursuits: Challenging activities may help to keep your brain healthy. Whether you enjoy games and puzzles, playing music, writing, drawing, or building something, mentally-stimulating activities may have short and long-term benefits.
- Stay socially connected: Research shows that people who have strong relationships with family and friends tend to live longer, and are more likely to be emotionally and physically healthier than people who are lonely and isolated.
No matter what your age is, staying as healthy as possible means paying attention to and nurturing your physical, mental, and emotional health.
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