Winning the Battle Against Alzheimer’s: A Simple Plan for Your Brain’s Future

If you’re in your middle years, you have powerful opportunities to stave off Alzheimer’s disease right now, before it starts to impact your life. So, what can you do? The answer, according to research from Johns Hopkins, is adopting specific lifestyle habits that can decrease your risk significantly.

Protect Your Brain with Diet and Exercise

It’s no secret that exercising and following a healthy diet can vastly improve your overall health. But now, we know exactly how critical these habits are in the fight against Alzheimer’s disease. Scientists at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health have discovered a straightforward strategy: prevent diabetes by engaging in regular exercise and maintaining a diet high in fruits and vegetables and low in processed junk food.

Their study found that if you allow your blood sugar levels to rise and succumb to diabetic metabolic changes, your brain will age at an accelerated pace. As a result, you’ll be more likely to experience worsening memory function and a decline into dementia.

Elizabeth Selvin, an associate professor of epidemiology and one of the lead researchers, states, “The lesson is that to have a healthy brain when you’re 70, you need to eat right and exercise when you’re 50.”

Strong Link Between Diabetes and Cognitive Decline

The research from Johns Hopkins clearly demonstrates a significant association between diabetes, pre-diabetes, poor glucose control in people with diabetes, and cognitive decline. And this connection highlights a crucial aspect of Alzheimer’s prevention: “..we know how to prevent or delay the diabetes associated with this decline.”

The study pulled information from another project called the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities Study (ARIC). This research followed the health of roughly 16,000 middle-aged individuals from Maryland, North Carolina, Minnesota, and Mississippi from the 1980s up until 2013.

Analysis of the ARIC data revealed that diabetes can age the brain about five years quicker than it should. In other words, a 60-year-old individual with diabetes has a brain equivalent to a 65-year-old without it.

Better Diabetes Management for Alzheimer’s Prevention

As Selvin points out, “If we can do a better job at preventing diabetes and controlling diabetes, we can prevent the progression to dementia for many people.” Even delaying dementia onset by just a few years can have a considerable positive influence on the population—from improved quality of life to reduced health care costs.

Everyday Habits for Diabetes Prevention

To reap the brain-protecting benefits identified by the study, here are steps you can follow to prevent or better manage diabetes:

  1. Eat the right foods: Choose whole grains, lean proteins, healthy fats, fruit, and plenty of vegetables. Avoid processed foods, refined sugars, and unhealthy fats.

  2. Exercise regularly: Aim for at least 2.5 hours of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise per week and two sessions of muscle-strengthening activities.

  3. Maintain a healthy weight: By following a nutritious diet and keeping active, you can achieve a healthy weight and decrease the risk of developing diabetes.

  4. Quit smoking: Smoking increases the risk of diabetes and other severe health problems. Seek support to quit for optimal well-being.

  5. Control high blood pressure and cholesterol: These conditions often accompany diabetes and increase the risk of heart disease and stroke. Eating a balanced diet, exercising, and managing stress can help keep them under control.

Protect Your Brain’s Future

While the study findings are significant, they also highlight an essential message about lifestyle choices and Alzheimer’s risk. Take steps to prevent diabetes as early as possible—by following a healthy diet, staying physically active, and managing other aspects of personal well-being. By making these choices, you’ll not only be improving your overall health but also securing a healthier brain and brighter future as you age.