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Your Lifestyle and Health Habits may Preserve Mental Acuity

Updated: Mar 25, 2022

Someone develops Alzheimer's disease every 70 seconds. Alzheimer's is one of those things that no one wants to think about. However, new research indicates that not only thinking about it but doing something about it, may help delay or prevent its onset.

Alzheimer's disease is a progressive form of dementia (loss of brain function) that affects memory, #cognition, and behavior to an extent that it interferes with a person's daily life and activities. Experts estimate that as many as 5.1 million Americans have Alzheimer's. There is no cure, but the symptoms can be treated by medications that may help maintain thinking, memory, and speaking skills and may help with certain behavioral problems.

Damage to the brain begins 10 to 20 years before symptoms are evident, but experts aren't sure what initiates the disease process.

Abnormal clumps (amyloid plaques) and tangled bundles of fibers (neurofibrillary tangles) begin to develop in the brain. As more plaques and tangles develop, nerve cells (neurons) in the brain work less efficiently, lose their ability to function and communicate with each other, and eventually die. As neurons continue to die, brain tissue shrinks.

Although Alzheimer's is not a normal part of aging, advanced age is a risk factor, as is family history and heredity.

But whether or not a person develops Alzheimer's is not entirely up to genetics. Many people who have the form of the Alzheimer's gene increase the risk of the disease; and many people without the gene do.

For the 25 percent of Americans who have the Alzheimer's gene - and also for those who don't - the risk of developing Alzheimer's can be decreased by improvements in lifestyle factors such as #nutrition, sleep, and mental, physical, and social activity.

Here's what can be done now that may help delay or prevent the possible onset of Alzheimer's disease.

What's good for your heart is good for your head.

A healthy heart and circulatory system help nourish the brain with oxygen and nutrients. Work with your doctor to monitor your heart health and treat any problems such as high #BloodPressure, heart disease, stroke, #diabetes, and high #cholesterol. Be physically active and enjoy a heart-healthy eating style such as a Mediterranean diet or the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) Eating Plan, which includes a wide variety of foods that are good sources of antioxidants and omega-3 fatty acids.

  • Foods rich in #antioxidants: Dark-skinned fruits and vegetables such as spinach, asparagus, red bell pepper, raisins, berries, and cherries; spices such as turmeric or curry; nuts such as almonds, pecans, and #walnuts; black and green tea; coffee in moderation; dark chocolate in moderation; and red wine in moderation (or Concord grape juice).

  • Foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids: Cold-water/fatty fish such as halibut, mackerel, salmon, trout, and tuna; walnuts; ground flaxseed.

"There are no specific dietary recommendations to help reduce the risk of Alzheimer's disease", says Lynn Spalding, RD, CSG, board-certified specialist in gerontological nutrition.

"It's an area that's evolving and currently, there isn't adequate evidence to make specific recommendations. That said, it makes a lot of sense to include foods that are good sources of omega-3 fatty acids and antioxidants to decrease oxidative damage to cells. Also, after age 55, taking supplements of #vitamins B12 and D is often recommended."

Protect yourself from head trauma.

Buckle your seat belt, wear a helmet during sports, and fall-proof your home.

Age Well.

Strategies for healthy aging may keep your body and brain fit.

Maintain a healthy weight, get enough sleep, avoid tobacco and excess alcohol, stay socially connected, and exercise your body and mind.

For more information, visit the Alzheimer's Association website:

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