Updated: Dec 17, 2018
While you can’t prevent Alzheimer’s, there are steps you can take to lower your risk of developing Alzheimer’s. “Lifestyle changes could reduce your chances of developing Alzheimer’s by 90 percent,” says Dr. Ayesha Sherzai of the Brain Health and Alzheimer’s Prevention Program. Here are five lifestyle strategies that you can take to help reduce your risk of developing Alzheimer’s.
1. Fill up on coffee, chocolate, and red wine. Coffee, red wine, and dark chocolate are high in antioxidants, which protect your cells against free radicals. Free radicals kill nerve cells which can cause changes in the brain that lead to Alzheimer’s. For coffee, enjoy three cups a day. With chocolate, look for at least 70% cacao and eat less than one ounce a day. Stick to a 5-ounce glass of red wine a day.
2. Get enough deep sleep. You should get eight hours of sleep each night, but you also need to get quality sleep. Deep sleep reduces inflammation and clears out the toxins that have developed during the day. Your body goes through several sleep cycles, including REM sleep which occurs after deep sleep. If you remember having dreams or wake up feeling refreshed, you’ve likely had deep sleep. You can improve your sleep habits by making your room dark and not using your bed to do work. Also, stop doing anything stimulating (like checking your phone or exercising) at least one hour before bed.
3. Exercise. Exercise, especially aerobic, increases blood flow to the brain, helps improve connections between neurons, and reduces inflammation. “When you’re sedentary, blood flow to the brain is reduced and other chemical processes are induced, which can affect your cognitive functioning,” Dr. Sherzai. Try to exercise for at least 30 minutes five days a week.
4. Eat more veggies. A diet focused on whole foods and plants (vegetables, fruit, whole grains, beans, lentils, seeds, and nuts) is high in antioxidants, which reduce inflammation. Try eating a veggie burger every once in a while. Or replace your sandwich with a salad. Add a serving of beans and greens to your meals. Cut out added sugar, which also contributes to inflammation. Check the label of prepackaged foods and try to choose ones that are low in grams of sugar.
5. Learn something new. Learning new skills creates new synapses (neural connections) that keep your brain functioning well. The more synapses you have, the more you can afford to lose. Learning even a small skill will help. Try enhancing one of your hobbies.
Taking steps toward including these changes in your lifestyle can go a long way in reducing your risk of Alzheimer’s. While it’s not a cure all, it can help you feel better now and healthier in the future.