As of 2015, approximately 5.3 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s Disease, and experts predict that this number will grow to over 7 million in the next 10 years—a 40% increase. Clearly, something must be done!
Some people believe that Alzheimer’s cannot be prevented, cured or slowed, yet we know that there are a number of ways that you can care for your body and brain to effectively lower your risk. According to a 2011 study, up to 54% of Alzheimer’s cases could have been avoided had the individual adopted healthier lifestyle habits. The most modifiable risk factors presented in the study were physical inactivity, depression, smoking, mid-life hypertension, mid-life obesity, low education and diabetes.
While some of the risk factors are a bit more complex to avoid, there are a few easy ways that you can start nourishing your brain and brain today.
Eat more healthy fats and veggies. According to the Mayo Clinic, the risk for cognitive impairment is 42% lower in mature adults who eat a diet that is higher is high-quality fats—think avocado, coconut oil and walnuts—and lower in refined carbohydrates such as bread, pasta and rice. Your brain matter is approximately 60% fat, so it needs enough “good fats” to function properly. With that said, make an effort to eliminate “bad fats” such as the ones in fried and processed foods.
Work your buns to boost your brain. Physical activity improves circulation and blood flow, which means that there is more oxygen and nutrients nourishing your brain cells. Exercise also helps prevent heart disease, weight gain and diabetes, which are all risk factors for Alzheimer’s. If that weren’t enough, exercise is also a fantastic antidepressant! How much should you get? Brisk walking for 30-45 minutes, 3-4 times per week is a fantastic way to start. Invite a friend for maximum enjoyment.
Spend time with your grandchildren. Spending time with your grandchildren—particularly while engaged in physical and/or learning activities—is another scientifically proven way to maintain cognitive health as you age. These types of activities, in addition to healthy social time with friends and family, strengthen the neural connections in your brain and help you stay sharp and happy!
Combine all three of these suggestions for maximum results. A 2014 study showed that after just two years, people who made these changes experienced improvements in memory, executive function (planning, thinking ahead) and scored higher on cognitive skills speed tests.
Who says that being healthy has to be a drag? Have fun with it!