Can Alzheimer's Disease Be Prevented?
As you age, your body changes. You notice changes to your hair and face, aches and pains might appear more often. And, to make matters worse, you may become forgetful. This might make you concerned about developing and trying to prevent dementia or Alzheimer's disease (AD).
While you cannot control aging or your genes, you may be wondering if there are ways you can prevent or reduce your chances of developing Alzheimer's.
Can Alzheimer's disease be prevented?
Alzheimer's disease is the most common form of dementia in older adults. However, the condition causes much more than memory loss. The result of Alzheimer's can be devastating. It deeply affects both the person with Alzheimer's and their family members.1,2
Doctors are researching the link between AD and specific genes. They found AD runs in families, which means you are more likely to have AD if someone in your family has it.
The APOE gene is being researched as a gene that may increase the chance of developing Alzheimer's disease. However, scientists do not know for sure how these genes may lead to or increase the risk of developing AD.3
Scientists have found that AD genes can be turned "on" or "off." This means that while you may have the genes linked to AD, healthier living may prevent or delay your body from developing the condition.3
Potential strategies to delay the onset of Alzheimer's
Scientists do not know the exact cause of AD. They do not know how to slow it down or the precise way to prevent it. However, certain lifestyle habits might help reduce your general risk of developing the disease. Lifestyle and environment play a role in developing AD. General healthy living tips for disease prevention include:1-4
Physical activity and exercise
Get outside and get some exercise. 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 has many other benefits, like reducing your risk of diabetes and stroke.3
A healthy diet
Your diet can relieve, trigger, or worsen your health condition. Mediterranean-style and diets high in omega-3, a nutrient found in fish and other seafood, are the most studied for their benefits on Alzheimer's disease. The Mediterranean diet generally includes:2
- An abundance of fresh fruits and vegetables;
- Mono and polyunsaturated fats, like olive oil;
- Nuts and legumes carry healthy fats, like the ones noted above and micronutrients;
- Fish is high in those omega-3s noted earlier.
Some studies show that changing just parts of your diet can be better than nothing at all. In addition to possibly slowing the progression of AD, Mediterranean diets may improve heart health.2
If you have AD or a family member with AD, ask your doctor about what diet changes may be right.1
There is no research confirming taking vitamins prevents dementia. In studies, taking vitamins did not prevent cognitive decline in adults. As with other drugs and supplements, talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of certain vitamins.1
Social and mental stimulation may help prevent or reduce AD's onset. People who live alone with a limited support system tend to decline faster. Cognitive activities may protect the brain. The actions create "reserve" in the brain. So, if there is brain damage or trauma, the brain would still function effectively.4
Scientists do not have a specific mental stimulation suggestion. Healthy brain games might include word puzzles, chess, card games, and reading.
Get enough rest
The collection of a protein called amyloid in the brain can trigger AD. Researchers are looking at how rest impacts the development or prevention of Alzheimer's. Some evidence suggests that getting a good rest increases protein clearance in the brain, which may help to prevent the onset of AD. Your goal should be at least 7 to 8 hours of rest per night.2
Blood pressure control
Studies link high blood pressure to dementia or AD. Alzheimer's disease can lead to vessel damage in the brain, which might be linked to uncontrolled high blood pressure. Some research suggests that high blood pressure in middle age increases the risk of having AD.1
Honest conversations with the 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. Doing your best to live a healthy lifestyle and staying up to date with AD research will help to keep both your body and mind strong, which is important for all disease prevention.
Tell us about your experience in the comments below, or share your story with the community.
Do you have in-home professional care?