Reduce your risk for Alzheimer's now

By Julie Jordan
Published June 12, 2019

Did you know that the progression of Alzheimer’s disease begins years before symptoms ever show up? Most people with Alzheimer's or related dementia are over 65, but younger onset can begin at age 40. While Alzheimer’s disease is due in part to genetics, it is also influenced by environmental factors we can control. Our lifestyle can impact our risk for Alzheimer’s just as much as our genes.  

If you knew you could help reduce your risk for Alzheimer’s later by changing your lifestyle now, would you?

The Alzheimer’s Association defines Alzheimer’s disease as a degenerative brain disease and the most common form of dementia. Alzheimer’s starts with memory loss that disrupts everyday life. It gets worse over time, resulting in loss of ability to perform everyday tasks like getting dressed. 

Early detection, usually a brief cognitive assessment by a primary care provider, has several benefits. Yet most people do not discuss any thinking or memory problems with their health care provider. In fact, according to the Georgia Department of Public Health's 2016 data, 80% of Georgians who perceived themselves as having some form of cognitive impairment have not discussed their condition with their health care provider and therefore have not received treatment. Nationwide, just one in seven seniors is receiving regular brief cognitive assessments.

To determine how aging is affecting your brain, ask your health care provider for a brief cognitive assessment during each annual checkup.

Furthermore, be proactive. Reduce your risk for cognitive decline, dementia and Alzheimer’s now by adopting these lifestyle habits from the Alzheimer’s Association:  

  1. Get regular cardio exercise – Several studies show physical activity reduces risk for cognitive decline.
  2. Take a class at a local college – Formal education helps reduce your risk for dementia.
  3. Quit smoking – Smoking increases risk for cognitive decline.
  4. Keep your heart healthy - The same habits that keep your heart healthy are shown to also help keep your brain healthy. Visit the American Heart Association to learn more.
  5. Prevent brain injury – Wear a seatbelt and a helmet. Prevent falls. Brain injury raises your risk for cognitive decline.  
  6. Eat a healthy diet like DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) - Low fat diets with lots of fruit and vegetables help reduce risk of cognitive decline.
  7. Get enough sleep – Not getting enough sleep can increase memory and thinking problems.
  8. Take care of your mental health – A history of depression is linked to cognitive decline. Seek treatment and manage stress.
  9. Be social – Staying socially engaged may support brain health. Volunteer or share activities with friends and family.
  10. Challenge your mind – When is the last time you felt challenged? Try a puzzle and play games that make you think strategically. This will have both short- and long-term positive effects on your brain.