Slash Your Alzheimer’s Risk: Simple Steps for All Ages

You may think that Alzheimer’s disease is something that only affects older adults, but the reality is that what you do early in life can significantly alter your risk of developing this fatal brain problem. So, no matter your age, you can start taking measures against Alzheimer’s today.

For example, if you’re in your 30s and carrying a lot of extra weight, losing those pounds can drastically decrease your risk of Alzheimer’s. A study in England found that being obese before age 40 triples your chances. Over a twelve-year period, the study involved more than 450,000 people and discovered that for individuals between 30 and 39 years old, the risk of suffering dementia (severe memory problems, including Alzheimer’s) was 3.5 times greater than for those who were not obese.

Age Matters, but So Does Timing

Interestingly, the researchers found that people who didn’t become obese until their 40s had a 70 percent increased risk of dementia. The risk fell for each decade people kept their weight down. Those who developed obesity in their 50s had a 50 percent increased risk, while those who became obese in their 60s saw a 40 percent increased risk.

According to the study, if you become obese in your 70s, your chances of Alzheimer’s are not affected. Surprisingly, if you become obese in your 80s, that extra fat around your middle actually reduces your risk of memory problems by 22 percent. However, it’s essential to remember that maintaining a healthy weight throughout your life provides the best protection against dementia and Alzheimer’s.

Other Ways to Lower Your Risk

Weight management is just one piece of the puzzle when it comes to lowering your risk of Alzheimer’s. Here are a few more ways to help protect your brain health:

Stay Physically Active

Regular exercise not only helps maintain a healthy weight but also improves brain function. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, staying physically active throughout your life can reduce your risk of developing Alzheimer’s and other dementias.

Eat a Healthy Diet

A diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins can provide essential nutrients that support brain health. The Alzheimer’s Association recommends the Mediterranean, DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension), or MIND (Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay) diets as effective options for brain health.

Get Enough Sleep

Chronic sleep deprivation has been linked to a higher risk of Alzheimer’s, so make sure you’re getting the recommended 7-8 hours of sleep each night. Good sleep hygiene, such as keeping a consistent bedtime and limiting caffeine and electronics before bed, can help improve sleep quality.

Keep Your Mind Sharp

Mental exercises, such as crossword puzzles, Sudoku, or learning a new language, can help keep your brain sharp and reduce the risk of dementia or Alzheimer’s. Staying socially engaged can also benefit your brain health, so make time for hobbies, social activities, or engaging in meaningful conversations with friends and family.

Manage Stress

Chronic stress can have a negative impact on your brain health and has been linked to a higher risk of Alzheimer’s. Incorporate relaxation techniques like deep breathing or meditation into your routine to help manage stress.

Take Care of Your Heart

Keeping your heart healthy can play a significant role in reducing your risk of Alzheimer’s. Regular exercise, a healthy diet, and managing conditions like diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol are essential for both heart and brain health.

The Bottom Line

Taking action to reduce your risk of Alzheimer’s doesn’t have to wait until you’re older. The earlier you start making changes, the better your chances are of maintaining good brain health and staving off the debilitating effects of Alzheimer’s and other dementias. Focus on maintaining a healthy weight, staying physically active, eating a brain-healthy diet, and taking care of your mental and emotional well-being to help lower your risk.