With more than 5 million Americans living with Alzheimer's disease, according to a report by the Alzheimer's Association, memory care should be a top priority for our nation's health. There are a lot of misconceptions surrounding this disease, and many people may not realize that treatment options are currently limited. While Alzheimer's disease has no cure, there are numerous small changes Americans can make in their day-to-day lives to help lower their risk of the onset of Alzheimer's. Here are six strategies for making Alzheimer's prevention a priority:
"A 2011 study found smoking to be a major contributing factor in 14 percent of Alzheimer's cases."
1. Go out and get social
According to Prevention, an active social life may help prevent Alzheimer's in seniors. There are numerous reasons that a person may become socially isolated as he or she ages, but it's important to stay connected for the sake of your mental health. If you have a loved one who seems to be more and more withdrawn, make a point of finding opportunities where he or she can interact with others.
2. Quit smoking
A 2011 study published in The Lancet identified and ranked seven preventable risk factors that contribute to Alzheimer's disease, of which smoking was the second highest. In fact, the study suggested smoking is a major factor in 14 percent of Alzheimer's cases. If this is a habit you've been trying to kick for some time, knowing that it can benefit your brain health might provide some extra motivation.
3. Train your brain
In the same study, the only factor researchers ranked above smoking was "low educational attainment." That is to say, not seizing opportunities to regularly learn and challenge your brain can contribute directly to Alzheimer's. Find a few extra minutes each day to do a crossword puzzle or Sudoku, and consider trying online brain-training sites such as Lumosity.com.
4. Change your eating habits
Numerous studies have linked specific dietary habits to attributing to the risk or prevention of Alzheimer's disease. Fruits and vegetables (notably berries) as well as fatty fish high in omega-3s have all been found to decrease one's risk of Alzheimer's when consumed regularly as part of a well-balanced diet.
5. Stay active
Physical inactivity can contribute to one's risk of Alzheimer's disease and is an especially prevalent issue in the U.S. Though we generally associate diet and exercise with good physical health, it's important to remember that the brain is a part of the body, and that commitment can benefit your mental health as well.
6. Get enough sleep
A recent study by researchers at UCLA's Mary S. Easton Center for Alzheimer's Disease Research managed to reverse memory loss associated with Alzheimer's disease for the first time. Participants were put on a rigorous program with a number of lifestyle changes, one of which was mandated seven to eight hours of sleep each night. Those who had trouble sleeping for that duration were given tryptophan or melatonin supplements. Other components of the program included an adjusted diet, a minimum of 30 minutes exercise four to six times per week, regulated fasting times between meals and daily meditation.