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These proven steps can protect you from this thought-robbing, you-erasing disease:
- Order the walnut salad and grilled fish with couscous for dinner and have fruit for dessert. Then, take that stroll. Cutting back on saturated fat (ice cream, butter, full-fat milk and cheese, red meat) and getting more brain-pampering omega-3s (fish), monounsaturated fats (nuts) and enough folate, vitamin B12 and vitamin E (fresh produce, whole grains) could cut your Alzheimer's risk by 38%. Combine your healthy meal with a 30-minute walk and that number jumps to 60%.
- Get serious about LDL cholesterol, blood pressure and diabetes. All three threaten the arteries that deliver oxygen-rich blood to your brain cells. Ignoring them boosts your risk for dementia by up to 46%. Make preventing or reversing them a mission.
- Enjoy a second mug of coffee. Two mugs a day, or three to six small cups, could lower your risk by 67%. Why? Something in coffee helps protect you. What, exactly? We don't know yet.
- If you still smoke, call it quits. Smoking is the worst for Alzheimer's. A two-packs-a-day habit boosts your risk by 157%. If you've tried to quit and failed, try again. North Americans, on average, require seven attempts to quit for good.
- Pop some good fat. Your brain is 60% fat -- half of it the type of omega-3 fatty acid we take every day: DHA. People with mild memory decline see their brains become three years younger when they take 900 milligrams a day for just six months.
- Moderate drinking (one drink a day for women, two for men) protects your brain only to a point. If you or a loved one has signs of mild cognitive problems (memory slips, slowed thinking), it's time to toast with sparkling cider instead of champagne. Just a couple of alcoholic beverages a week can double dementia risk if there are signs of trouble.
“People who are concerned about something like memory loss should seek the help of a qualified physician as soon as possible so that he or she can help identify what’s really going on,” says Joshua Grill, PhD, director of the Katherine and Benjamin Kagan Treatment Development Program in the Easton Center for Alzheimer’s Disease Research at UCLA. “While some people are genetically predisposed to Alzheimer’s disease, it’s not certain that they will develop the disease, and they may be able to take steps now to reduce their risk for developing Alzheimer’s disease later in life.”
Says psychiatrist Gary Small, MD, director of the UCLA Center on Aging, “A healthy lifestyle is brain protective. If people really understood this and adopted even one healthy behavior as a result -- something as simple as taking a brisk 20-minute walk four times a week, or eating fresh fruits and vegetables every day -- it’s estimated that we would see a million fewer cases of Alzheimer’s in five years.”
There are a number of things you can do to reduce your risk of developing Alzheimer's disease, says neurologist Dr. Greg Petsko. Learn what they are by watching this video.
This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.