Alzheimer’s is a disease that none of us wishes to contract. Age is the greatest risk factor, and that’s something you can’t change, but most experts agree that Alzheimer’s and related dementias are not a normal part of aging.
There are several risk factors for Alzheimer’s. Some, like your age, can’t be changed, but there are modifiable risk factors over which you have some control or for which you could seek treatment.
You may be surprised to learn that, until recently, the most prominent risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease was determined to be physical inactivity. New data suggests that obesity in mid life has overtaken physical inactivity as the leading risk factor for Alzheimer’s and related dementias.
Here are some recommendations from the U.S Department of Health and Human Services and the National Institutes of Health to reduce your dementia risk:
Control high blood pressure – High blood pressure increases the risk of stroke and vascular dementia. Treating high blood pressure with medication and healthy lifestyle changes may help reduce the risk of dementia.
Manage blood sugar – Higher than normal levels of blood sugar can lead to diabetes and may increase the risk of heart disease, stroke, cognitive impairment, and dementia. Making healthy food choices, getting regular exercise, stopping smoking, and checking glucose levels can help manage blood sugar.
Maintain a healthy weight – Being overweight or obese increases the risk for related health problems such as diabetes and heart disease. Being active and choosing healthy foods can help maintain a healthy weight.
Eat a healthy diet – Aim for a mix of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean meats and seafood, unsaturated fats such as olive oil, low-fat or nonfat dairy products, and limit other fats and sugars.
Keep physically active – Physical activity can help to prevent being overweight and having obesity, heart disease, stroke, and high blood pressure. Aim to get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity each week.
Stay mentally active – Reading, playing board games, crafting, taking up a new hobby, learning a new skill, working or volunteering, and socializing can help keep your mind active. Stay connected with family and friends to prevent social isolation and loneliness.
Other risk factors include hearing loss, poor sleep, alcohol use, and smoking. Seek treatment for these issues to further reduce your risk. Head injuries also increase your risk. Wear a seat belt, use a bike helmet when cycling, and think safety when performing any activity that might result in injury.
Sherry DeWalt is the healthy lifestyles coordinator for the CGH Health Foundation in Sterling.
Source: The Daily Chronicle