There are about 5.3 million people in the U.S. living with Alzheimer’s disease and more than 33 million worldwide. As the U.S. population ages, the number is projected to increase 40 percent and reach 7.1 million people in just 10 years. But the findings of a recent study suggest there are steps you can take today that may lower your risk of developing Alzheimer’s.
The study, conducted by a group of researchers at the University of California San Francisco, reviewed 323 previous studies that included 5,000 participants. They pooled the data from these studies and graded the evidence according to its strength. From their analysis of the data, they discovered nine factors that were associated with an increased risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. Those factors include:
- Narrowing of the carotid arteries
- Type 2 diabetes
- Having low education levels
- High blood pressure
- High levels of the amino acid homocysteine, which has been linked to the development of cardiovascular disease
- Being frail
While the primary risk factors for Alzheimer’s disease are growing older and genetics, there’s no way for you to manage those risk factors. What’s important about several of the factors pinpointed in this observational study is that they can be controlled with lifestyle changes and medical treatment, which could potentially lower your risk of Alzheimer’s as well as providing protection against a wide range of other health problems such as heart disease, stroke, certain cancers, and other forms of dementia.
What can you do to protect the health of your brain?
The first step is to talk with your doctor, and if you haven’t had a physical recently, get one so that you and your doctor can identify whether you have any of these modifiable health issues. As part of your strategy, a personal health advisor can connect you with nutritionists and trainers, who can help you manage your weight and increase strength, and smoking cessation specialists.
Here are some additional proactive steps you can take to protect the health of your brain:
- Take part in regular cardiovascular exercise. This not only helps you manage your weight, it also increases the blood flow that nourishes your brain.
- Take a challenging class. Some studies have linked formal education at any stage of life with a lowered risk of cognitive decline.
- Get treatment for mental health issues. If you have symptoms of depression, anxiety, or other mental health issues, it’s important seek treatment. A health advisor can help you find an experienced mental health specialist.
- Choose a healthy diet. Some studies have shown a link between eating a Mediterranean diet or a combination of a Mediterranean diet and the DASH diet, which was created to help people lower their blood pressure, and a lower risk of cognitive impairment.
- Protect yourself against head injury. Brain injury can increase your risk of developing cognitive decline and dementia. Always wear a seat belt and use a helmet when you ride bikes, motorcycles, or play contact sports.