November is National Alzheimer's Disease Awareness Month.

 

Lindsay Simone

 

Lindsay Simone

Director, Health & wellness

When you’re known for your brainpower - as engineers typically are - the thought of losing your mind or memories can be particularly terrifying, and it’s just as terrifying to see it happen to a loved one. But learning about dementia is the first step to preventing it, and there’s no better time than November: National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month.

Alzheimer’s is a degenerative brain disease affecting memory and other cognitive functions, and is the most common type of dementia. Some of the biggest risk factors for Alzheimer’s are age, family history, genetic predisposition, stroke, diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

Of course, it’s normal to experience minor mental lapses every now and then, particularly if we are tired or stressed. But when mental decline interferes with our ability to live independently, that’s when it’s time to talk to a doctor. The cause may not be dementia; it could be as simple as a nutrient deficiency. Either way, there are steps you can take to make a huge difference.

 

5 Ways to Reduce Alzheimer's Risk

First, it helps to communicate with your doctor. Learn as much as you can about your family history and report it to your doctor so he or she knows what questions to ask and what to look for. But as with many health issues, our own daily efforts can make the biggest difference.

  1. Mental exercise can reduce your chance of developing Alzheimer’s by up to 70%. This can be anything from reading a book or learning a new board game, to more challenging activities like learning another language or learning how to play an instrument. Look for activities that are new to you, that engage your attention and that involve multiple senses.
  2. Physical exercise can reduce your risk for developing Alzheimer’s disease by up to 50%. Aim for 150 minutes of exercise per week (a little over 20 minutes per day), and be sure to incorporate both cardio and strength training.
  3. Healthy eating with the MIND diet helped lower Alzheimer's risk by about 35% for people who followed it moderately well and up to 53% for those who adhered to it rigorously. The MIND diet combines two of today’s most highly-ranked diets - the Mediterranean diet and Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) while focusing on foods that benefit the brain.
    • Focus on these foods:
      • Vegetables, especially green leafy vegetables
      • Nuts
      • Berries
      • Beans
      • Whole grains
      • Fish
      • Poultry
      • Olive Oil
      • Wine
    • Limit these foods:
      • Red meat
      • Butter and margarine
      • Cheese
      • Sweets
      • Fried food
  4. Sleep has been shown in early studies to affect your risk of Alzheimer’s. Sleep apnea, in particular, leads to an increase in one of the proteins that causes dementia. So be sure to prioritize getting seven to nine hours of sleep every night, and look for ways to get any snoring under control.
  5. Reducing stress is also crucial to a healthy brain and a healthy mind. Finding time each day to pray or meditate, and to relax with loved ones, can help. For more, see my eight practical ways to cut down on stress.

Learn more about Alzheimer’s and how to prevent it from the Alzheimer’s Research and Prevention Foundation.

 

 

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