Most people know that a healthy lifestyle is a good thing—make better choices and you are likely to be happier and healthier than others your age. A healthy lifestyle also decreases your risk for certain diseases, including Alzheimer’s. Evidence suggests that adopting healthier lifestyle habits can help prevent the development of Alzheimer’s disease.
What is Alzheimer’s?
Alzheimer’s is the most prevalent form of dementia, characterised by an accumulation of two types of protein in the brain: plaques (amyloid-beta) and tangles (tau). It kills the brain and takes people’s lives every day.
The causes of Alzheimer’s are still unknown. However, Dr. Gad Marshall, an associate medical director of clinical trials at the Centre for Alzheimer’s Research, says that for one percent of all cases, three genes determine whether you will have Alzheimer’s and all these are related to amyloid-beta production. Amyloid and tau are associated with Alzheimer’s for the other 99 percent, but factors like inflammation of the brain, vascular risk factors, and lifestyle are some of the many things that may contribute to the development of symptoms.
There is strong evidence that suggests that Alzheimer’s symptoms may be warded off through certain lifestyle habits and use of oxygen therapy such as oxygen concentrator.
Exercise: Dr. Marshall says that physical exercise may help prevent the onset of Alzheimer’s or possibly slow down the progress of Alzheimer’s in people who are already experiencing symptoms. Dr. Marshall recommends people get 30 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise for three to four days per week.
Mediterranean diet: A Mediterranean diet has been shown to reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer’s or to slow the progress of Alzheimer’s symptoms. The Mediterranean diet includes whole grains, fresh vegetables and fruit, olive oil, nuts, fish, legumes, egg, dairy, and a moderate amount of red meat and red wine. If you are not able to fully commit to a Mediterranean diet, Dr. Marshall says that a partial change in diet still has some benefits.
Sleep: According to Dr. Marshall, evidence is beginning to show that getting seven to eight hours of sleep each night can help prevent Alzheimer’s and is linked to higher amyloid clearance from the brain.
Although the following lifestyle changes don’t have as much evidence to support their effects on Alzheimer’s, the evidence is somewhat hopeful and worth trying.
Learn something new: According to Dr. Marshall, cognitively stimulating activities may help prevent Alzheimer’s. The evidence is often limited to improvement in a learned task, but researchers have noticed some effect on Alzheimer’s patients.
Connect socially: Dr. Marshall believes that greater social interaction helps prevent Alzheimer’s.
Alcohol in moderation: The benefits of moderate drinking have conflicting evidence, but there are some doctors who recommend you drink one alcoholic beverage per day for women and one to two for men. Most agree wine is the best drink choice to support this theory, although Dr. Marshall says this has not yet been proven.
How can you make the best choices for you health?
It is safe to say a healthy lifestyle can prevent Alzheimer’s and other chronic problems, even though we don’t have enough evidence. It’s ideal to make as many healthy lifestyle choices as possible because they are beneficial and can wind up helping you avoid Alzheimer’s.
You don’t need to rush into a ramped-up routine of living a healthier lifestyle. Take it one step at a time:
- Remove unhealthy food from your diet
- Have lunch with a colleague you haven’t seen in a while
- Add an extra day of exercise to your routine
- Shut down your electronic devices half an hour earlier than normal or go to bed half an hour earlier to help you wind down
- Listen to a podcast about new topics you’re unfamiliar with or listen to a new kind of music
The idea is to try to make changes one at a time. Over time, they’ll add up, but at a more manageable pace.