A recent study suggests the number of Alzheimer’s patients could triple by the year 2050. The rise is being attributed to a combination of a true increase in cases and greater detection of the disease.
Dr. Murali Doraiswamy, a professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Duke University, says, “There are dozens of causes of dementia, and steps for prevention are different for each one.” Yet, even with so many possible causes of Alzheimer’s, Dr. Doraiswamy believes there are certain things you can do, on an individual level, to start strengthening yourself now – before reaching an age where you are at risk for developing early onset Alzheimer’s.
Dr. Doraiswamy’s top five strategies for keeping your brain healthy, and protecting yourself from Alzheimer’s, are:
(1) Minimize your risk for strokes, heart disease and diabetes by keeping your weight, blood pressure, cholesterol and sugar within normal ranges. This is because studies have found strong links between vascular risks and Alzheimer’s.
(2) Regular aerobic activities, such as walking, may reduce your risk for dementia by keeping the brain’s blood vessels healthy, boosting nerve growth chemicals and slowing age-related brain shrinkage. Dr. Doraiswamy says, “There is evidence that a walk a day can keep Alzheimer’s away.”
(3) Stimulate your mind, socialize actively, make new friends, try new activities, travel to new places and be passionate about learning new things. Adult brains can grow new brain cell connections, and developing a greater cognitive reserve might help to increase your buffer against dementia pathology.
(4) Follow a heart healthy diet such as a Mediterranean diet, but heed the old Okinawan saying, “Hara hachi bu” – a Confucian teaching that instructs people to eat only until you are 80 percent full.
(5) Minimize your risk for head injury by always wearing a helmet when recommended for at-risk sports and activities – such as bicycling or motorcycling.