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How can I prevent Alzheimer's disease?

You can't prevent Alzheimer's disease. Alzheimer's disease is actually a disease of the brain that involves a "tangling" of the nerves in the brain. There is no known cause. You can see these changes on pathologic slides of brain tissue of those who have died who had Alzheimer's. There does seem to be a family tendency for the disease, but just because someone has Alzheimer's in your family does not mean there is much of a risk that you will get it. There have been some associations, like longstanding hypertension and even aluminum exposure, that may have something to do with Alzheimer's, but nothing has been proved yet. Aerobic exercise and mental exercises have been shown to make a person cope with Alzheimer's better.

Try these things to help delay or prevent Alzheimer's disease:

  • Exercise regularly. It increases the flow of blood and oxygen to brain cells.
  • Eat well. Fill your diet with plenty of fruits, vegetables and whole grains, and limit sugar and saturated fats. The Alzheimer's Association reports that both the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) and Mediterranean diets have been studied and "may be beneficial." And docosahexaenoic acid, or DHA, is a type of essential omega-3 fatty acid that plays a role in brain health and may help ward off Alzheimer's. Cold-water fish like salmon, tuna, trout and sardines contain these fats.
  • Stay socially active. Being around other people can strengthen connections between the brain's nerve cells.
  • Stay mentally stimulated. Research finds that an active brain may build its reserves of brain cells and connections and may even generate new brain cells. Playing games, taking courses, reading, writing and doing crossword puzzles all help keep your brain churning.
  • Protect your brain. Because serious head trauma appears to increase the risk of Alzheimer's, always wear a seat belt, protect yourself against falls when possible and wear protective head gear when participating in sports or riding a bicycle.
  • Be kind to your heart. Studies show that some medical conditions that increase the risk of cardiovascular disease (like diabetes, high cholesterol and high blood pressure) may also increase the risk of developing Alzheimer's. That's where physical exercise and diet play a big role.
  • Get enough sleep. Although it is known that people with Alzheimer's disease suffer from poor sleep, researchers are studying the opposite -- if sleep loss can lead to the development of Alzheimer's.

This content originally appeared on HealthyWomen.org.

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Important: 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.