Alzheimer’s is a disease that currently affects 5.4 million people in the US, most of which are seniors. In fact, the Alzheimer’s Association reports that 1 in every 9 seniors over age 65 has the disease. It is a progressive disease that attacks the brain. An early symptom is short term memory loss, but as the disease advances a person experiences problems with language, disorientation, and behavioral changes. Unfortunately, most patients are diagnosed with the disease once dementia symptoms appear.
As researchers continue to understand the causes and treatments, more and more research suggests that some lifestyle habits can reduce your risk for developing Alzheimer’s or delay the onset. One recent European study followed 1,000 genetically high risk seniors age 60 to 77. They found that the seniors who made lifestyle changes (eating healthy, becoming physically active, and engaging in brain building activities), scored 25% better on memory tests than those seniors who made no changes by continuing to live as they had in the past. By changing their lifestyle, the study participants delayed Alzheimer’s by two years, and left researchers wondering the results had the lifestyle changes happened years earlier.
It is never too early to embrace a healthy lifestyle, and you may find many of these Alzheimer’s fighting habits you already do.
- Physical Activity- Physical activity is the number one way to protect your body from Alzheimer’s. It is recommended that you exercise 150 minutes or more a week. Whether you participate in group fitness at a gym, go for a swim in the pool, play tennis with a friend, walk the beach, or go for a bike ride… just get moving. Find something you like and make exercise part of your daily/weekly routine.
- Healthy Diet- The most brain beneficial diet is one consisting of more plants and less processed foods. Look for foods that are antioxidant rich and help reduce inflammation. Some of the best brain building foods are leafy greens, whole grains, beans, nuts, berries, fish, vegetables, and olive oil. Bypass the fast food restaurants and steer clear of processed foods snacks and sweets.
- Socialize- Interaction with others is the key to ward of loneliness. Numerous studies have linked senior loneliness to poor health and early death. There are so many ways to get connected with others. Schedule a dinner date, join a book club, go on a family outing, meet a friend for coffee, go shopping, volunteer, babysit your grandchildren- the list goes on and on.
- Brain Exercise- Keeping mentally active is important for retaining brain function, and once it starts to decline it is harder to bring it back. Keep yourself mentally sharp by challenging yourself to something you have never done before. Learn a new hobby or take a new adventure. Engage in brain stimulating hobbies: puzzle building, reading, cooking, learning a musical instrument, playing board games, cards, or computer games.
- Sleep- Whether it is a good night’s sleep or a power nap, it is important to get your adequate rest. The average person needs seven to nine hours of sleep per night. The National Sleep Foundation states that sleep patterns change and sleep disorders tend to increase with age.
Reduce your risk for Alzheimer’s disease by adding these healthy habits to your daily life. Invest in you!
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