Are You at Risk for Alzheimer's?
The 50-year-old noticed her mother showing alarming signs of forgetfulness and confusion. So she cut back on the processed foods her mom had in her refrigerator – as well as in her own.
Although more research needs to be done, studies show that eating more fruits, vegetables, fish, nuts and legumes – coupled with less meat, high-fat dairy and sweets – means reduced risk of Alzheimer’s.
But you can’t control every risk factor for Alzheimer’s. Just getting older increases your risk, says CHI Health Clinic Geriatrician Heather Morgan, MD. Nearly one-third of people age 85 and older have the disease.
“Another factor can be family history,” Morgan said. Those with a parent or sibling with Alzheimer’s are more likely to develop it. “But you can certainly help reduce your risk.”
A few brain-smart lifestyle and wellness choices you can make include:
- Avoid head injury. Wear your seatbelt, use a helmet when you ride your bike and make your house fall-proof.
- Improve your heart health. Anything that is good for your heart is good for your brain. The risk of Alzheimer’s increases if the heart is damaged by heart disease, diabetes, high cholesterol and high blood pressure.
- Use it or lose it. Morgan suggests “thinking” activities such as reading, playing an instrument, traveling, playing with grandchildren and doing puzzles.
- Exercise the body, too. “Activity can benefit brain cells by increasing blood and oxygen flow to the brain, as well as the number of cell-to-cell connections, and decreasing inflammation,” Morgan said.
- Keep friends and family close. In a study of healthy older people, researchers found more frequent social contact translated into better cognitive function.
There’s no cure currently for Alzheimer’s and by 2025, the number of people in the U.S. age 65 and older with Alzheimer’s will reach an estimated 7.1 million. But there’s a tremendous amount of research going on to not only predict and diagnose Alzheimer’s but to slow its progression and treat it as well.