Can Alzheimer's Disease Be Prevented?

Last updated: December 2023

As you age, your body changes. You may notice changes to your hair and face. Aches and pains might appear more often. Along with these physical effects, aging also can affect your mind. You might become more forgetful and easily confused. These can be early symptoms of dementia or Alzheimer's disease. Luckily, there are things you can do to reduce your chances of developing Alzheimer's disease.1

What causes Alzheimer's disease?

Alzheimer's disease is the most common form of dementia in older adults. Research shows that there is a link between Alzheimer's disease and specific genes (part of your DNA). Having certain genes can increase your chances of developing Alzheimer's disease.2

But research also shows that genes linked to Alzheimer's disease can be turned "on" or "off." This means that while you may have those genes, you may be able to prevent or delay the onset of the condition.2

Potential ways to delay the onset of Alzheimer's disease

Your environment and lifestyle play an important role when it comes to Alzheimer's disease. Certain lifestyle changes might help decrease the chances of developing Alzheimer's disease or delay its symptoms.1

Physical activity and exercise

Getting regular exercise may reduce your chances of developing Alzheimer's disease. Experts say you should aim to exercise for 30 minutes, 3 to 4 days a week. You can do aerobic exercises like jogging, swimming, or yoga. Physical activity also has many other benefits, like reducing your risk of diabetes, heart disease, and stroke.1,3-5

A healthy diet

Eating a healthy diet is linked to brain health and may reduce your chances of developing Alzheimer's disease. Generally, a healthy diet includes a lot of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and nuts. You should limit sugar and foods with high saturated fats.1,6

Many different diets aim to increase health benefits. The MIND (Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay) diet is 1 example. This diet focuses on plant-based foods and limits animal-based and high-saturated-fat foods.6

On the MIND diet, you eat mostly:6

  1. Leafy green vegetables
  2. Berries
  3. Nuts
  4. Whole grains
  5. Fish
  6. Olive oil

The diet cuts out red meat, cheese, butter, sweets, and fast food.6

Social and mental stimulation

Social and mental stimulation may help prevent or delay the onset of Alzheimer's disease. Cognitive activities and engaging in social interactions are like exercise for the mind. Healthy brain activities might include doing word puzzles, playing chess or card games, or reading. Find an activity you enjoy, and do it regularly.1,5

Sufficient sleep

It seems that lack of sleep may also be linked to the development of Alzheimer's disease. Researchers believe that getting a good night's sleep increases protein clearance in the brain, which, over time, may help prevent the onset of Alzheimer's disease. Aim to get at least 7 to 8 hours of sleep every night.4,7

Heart health

Having heart (cardiovascular) disease can also increase the odds of developing Alzheimer's disease. Many health conditions can increase your risk of developing cardiovascular disease. These include high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes. If you have any of these conditions, talk to your doctor to find the best treatment option.1,4,5

Vaccinations

Some research studies suggest that getting routine vaccinations may lower your chances of developing Alzheimer's disease and dementia. Vaccines studied include those for:8-10

  • Flu
  • Tetanus and diphtheria with or without pertussis (Tdap/Td)
  • Herpes zoster (HZ)
  • Pneumococcus

Experts do not know the exact reason why these vaccines may lower the risk of developing Alzheimer's disease. But statistics show that fewer people who get vaccinated developed Alzheimer's disease compared to people who did not get vaccinated.8-10

Reduced chance of head injury

There is a link between serious head injury and developing dementia or Alzheimer's disease. Protect your head when doing dangerous activities. Use protective gear like a helmet, and always wear a seatbelt when traveling in a car. Aim to remove anything from your house that might cause you to trip and fall.1

Talk to your doctor

Having an open, honest, and detailed conversation with your doctor about your family history may be your first step in preventing and delaying the onset of Alzheimer's. Your doctor also can further explain the methods listed above and help you make any necessary lifestyle changes.

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