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Lifestyle Choices that May Prevent Alzheimer's Disease

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For many years, we’ve been told that there’s little we can do to prevent Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia. This line of thinking suggests that all we can do is hope for the best as we age and wait for a pharmaceutical cure.

But, the truth is much more encouraging. Researchers have discovered that it may be possible to prevent or delay the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease through a combination of certain lifestyle choices.

While genetic factors are out of your control, many powerful lifestyle choices can have a significant impact. Those who continue learning new things throughout life and challenging their brains are less likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, so make it a point to stay mentally active. You need to “use it” or, as they say, you’ll lose it.

Activities involving multiple tasks or requiring communication, interaction, and organization offer the greatest protection. Set aside time each day to stimulate your brain. Learning something new, such as a foreign language, a musical instrument, a new hobby or reading a good book are great workouts for the brain.

In addition, practicing memorization, focusing on puzzles, playing board games or working on Sudoku create patterns that strengthen brain connections. Moreover, many doctors encourage people to examine the “who, what, when, where and why” of daily experiences to capture visual details that keep neurons firing.

And, lastly, switching daily habits (e.g., driving a different way to the store, taking a different route when going for a walk) regularly creates new brain pathways that are helpful for brain functioning.

Studies also show that the more connected people are, the better they fare on memory and cognition tests. Staying socially active may even protect against Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, so it’s important to consider your social life a priority.

The brain requires regular, restful sleep in order to function at maximum capacity. Therefore, sleep deprivation impairs the ability to problem-solve, process, store, and recall information.

Deep sleep is essential for memory, and the vast majority of adults need at least eight hours of sleep per night. Accordingly, be sure to establish a regular sleep schedule, take naps as needed, create an environment that is conducive to sleep and maintain a relaxing bedtime ritual.

In addition, since severe and/or chronic stress takes a heavy toll on the brain, leading to shrinkage in a key memory area of the brain (the hippocampus), hampering nerve cell growth, and increasing your risk of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, stress management is crucial for brain health. Tools such as deep breathing, meditation, relaxation, prayer and reflection can minimize the harmful effects of stress.


Alzheimer’s Disease Prevention: The Value of Lifestyle Choices for Your Body and Your Brain. Web. www.alzprevention.org. Accessed 11 Jan. 2012. http://www.alzprevention.org

Prevention. Web. www.mayoclinic.com. Accessed 11 Jan. 2012. http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/alzheimers-disease/DS00161/DSECTION=prevention

Alzheimer’s & Dementia Prevention. Web. www.helpguide.org. Accessed 11 Jan. 2012. http://www.helpguide.org/elder/alzheimers_prevention_slowing_down_treatment.htm

Reviewed January 16, 2012
by Michele Blacksberg RN
Edited by Jody Smith

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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.

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