Top 11 Things You Should Do Now to Reduce Your Risk of Alzheimer's
June is Alzheimer’s Awareness month, so it’s a great opportunity to learn about the most common form of dementia and ways to prevent it. Rates of Alzheimer’s are increasing with more than 6 million Americans now living with the disease according to the Alzheimer’s Association. In fact, 1 in 10 Americans 65 years old and up currently have Alzheimer’s dementia, but it doesn’t appear overnight. Changes in the brain can begin 20 years or more before symptoms appear. The good news is that there are things you can do today to reduce your chances of developing the disease. Recent studies have found those who adopt several healthy lifestyle factors have a 60% reduced risk of Alzheimer’s.1
We've curated a list of the best things you can do to improve your brain health and reduce your risk of Alzheimer's:
- Get your daily fill of leafy green vegetables: Leafy green vegetables are packed with nutrients that support the brain. These nutrients provide antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects to reduce damage. Leafy greens provide polyphenols which are plant-based pigments known for their numerous health benefits. Kaempferol is a polyphenol in leafy greens like spinach, kale, and arugula, which has been shown to reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s by 50% in the top fifth of those consuming it!2 Leafy greens also provide important minerals like magnesium and iron, as well as gut-healthy fiber. Aim for 1 cup of raw leafy greens or ½ cup of cooked leafy greens daily to attain brain benefits.
- Practice stress management: Everyone experiences stress in their daily lives and not managing stress can take a big toll on the body. Studies have shown that chronic stress over time can have a negative impact on memory in older adults.3 There are many ways to reduce the effects of stress on the body. Some common stress management practices include deep breathing or meditation, exercise, keeping a gratitude journal, spending time with loved ones, and practicing self-care.
- Connect with friends or family everyday: Interacting with people close to you stimulates different parts of the brain and supports attention and memory. In fact, studies have linked more social activity with less cognitive decline during old age.4 Make a point of connecting with family or friends every day, even if it’s just a quick phone call.
- Enjoy a handful of berries daily: Berries are often considered a “superfood,” and for good reason. Berries are rich in polyphenols like anthocyanins, flavonoids, and stilbenes that offer powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects to protect the brain from damage. Studies have found a decreased rate of cognitive decline in those consuming just 1-2 servings of berries per week.5 Spring and summer are a perfect time to enjoy fresh berries, but frozen berries are a great alternative when you can’t find fresh, and they provide the same benefit.
- Get 7-9 hours of sleep every night: Sleep is critical for the body and brain to function properly. It plays a role in learning, memory, concentration, and supporting communication between neurons. An analysis of studies looking at the relationship between sleep and Alzheimer’s found a significantly higher risk of Alzheimer’s in those that had sleep disturbances or sleep disorders.6 Prioritize high quality sleep by sticking to a regular sleep schedule, avoiding alcohol or caffeine before bed, and putting away screens at least 30 minutes before bed.
- Move for 30 minutes a day (even if it’s just a walk): Exercise has profound effects on brain health. It reduces inflammation, improves blood flow to the brain, lowers stress hormones, and even increases brain volume. Several studies have shown that exercise improves memory function in adults.7 The key is to exercise regularly. Exercise can come in many forms; from walking or running, to swimming or cycling, any type of aerobic exercise that gets the heart rate up can benefit brain health. Just a 30-minute walk with a friend can have profound brain benefits from the combination of moving and socializing.
- Make sure you get enough Omega-3s: Omega-3s are healthy fats that help maintain the structure of cells and regulate cell communication, fighting neuroinflammation, and improving memory and mood. Several studies have reported benefits of omega-3s in reducing the risk of dementia and improving cognitive function.8 You can achieve an adequate intake of omega-3s from fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, sardines, or anchovies, as well as nuts like flax seeds, chia seeds, or walnuts.
- Read or play games that activate your brain: Just like you need to exercise physically to keep your body in shape, you need to exercise your brain to keep your brain healthy as you age. Many studies have demonstrated a reduced risk of Alzheimer’s with an increased frequency of cognitively stimulating activities.9 Using your brain in different ways has been shown to have more powerful effects on brain health. For example, try a new puzzle or game every week that activates different parts of the brain. Even picking up new hobbies or continuing old ones such as playing an instrument helps keep the brain engaged.
- Drink at least 8 cups of water a day: Water is the most important thing that we consume in a day. In fact, the human brain is composed of 75% water, so it’s understandable that only 2% dehydration can impact memory and processing speed. A recent study found that drinking water enhances performance on cognitive tests measuring working memory, which is the temporary storage of information during tasks and decision making.10 Keep a water bottle nearby throughout the day to ensure you stay hydrated and aim for about 8 cups (64 ounces) per day.
- Stay on top of your heart and metabolic health: It is becoming clear that all aspects of health are connected to brain health. A couple of key health measures are heart health and metabolic health, as they have been directly linked to Alzheimer’s risk. For example, a significantly increased risk of Alzheimer’s is associated with diabetes and obesity.11 It’s important to keep track of your heart and metabolic health to recognize if there are any issues that need to be addressed. Early detection makes it easier to make the adjustments necessary to maintain health and prevent damage to the brain.
- Consider a supplement to fill the gaps in your diet: It’s difficult to eat all the nutrients your brain needs on a daily basis, so taking a daily supplement may help fill the nutritional gaps. RELEVATE contains 17 well-researched nutrients to support long-term brain health. The dosages of RELEVATE’s ingredients are based on those consumed in brain-healthy diets like the Mediterranean diet and MIND diet. They fill in the gaps between the ideal intakes of nutrients for brain health and the standard American diet. RELEVATE is built on evidence from long-term studies of these brain strengthening diets that are significantly linked to age-related neurodegenerative disease.12
There is a lot that you can do today to best support your brain in preventing Alzheimer’s, but you don’t have to do everything at once. Pick one or two things that you want to prioritize working on, and gradually add in more when you can. The key is finding the things that work for you to sustain a brain-healthy lifestyle.
- Dhana, K., Evans, D. A., Rajan, K. B., Bennett, D. A., and Morris, M. C., Healthy lifestyle and the risk of Alzheimer dementia: Findings from 2 longitudinal studies. Neurology, 2020, 95, E374–E383.
- Holland, T. M., Agarwal, P., Wang, Y., et al., Dietary flavonols and risk of Alzheimer dementia. Neurology, 2020, 94, e1749–e1756.
- Peavy, G. M., Ph, D., Salmon, D. P., et al., Effects of chronic stress on memory decline in cognitively normal and mildly impaired older adults. Am. J. Psychiatry, 2009, 166, 1384–1391.
- James, B. D., Wilson, R. S., Barnes, L. L., and Bennett, D. A., Late-Life Social Activity and Cognitive Decline in Old Age. J Int Neuropsychol Soc., 2011, 711–716.
- Devore, E. E., Kang, J. H., Breteler, M. M. B., and Grodstein, F., Dietary intakes of berries and flavonoids in relation to cognitive decline. Ann. Neurol., 2012, 72, 135–143.
- Bubu, O. M., Brannick, M., Mortimer, J., et al., Sleep , Cognitive impairment , and Alzheimer ’ s disease : A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Sleep, 2017, 40, 1–18.
- Loprinzi, P. D., Frith, E., Edwards, M. K., Sng, E., and Ashpole, N., The Effects of Exercise on Memory Function Among Young to Middle-Aged Adults: Systematic Review and Recommendations for Future Research. Am. J. Heal. Promot., 2018, 32, 691–704.
- Issa, A. M., Mojica, W. A., Morton, S. C., et al., The efficacy of omega-3 fatty acids on cognitive function in aging and dementia: A systematic review. Dement. Geriatr. Cogn. Disord., 2006, 21, 88–96.
- Bardai, Z., Neural Plasticity and Cognitive Reserve. J. Curr. Clin. Care, 2012, 2.
- Edmonds, C. J., Beeley, J., Rizzo, I., Booth, P., and Gardner, M., Drinking Water Enhances Cognitive Performance: Positive Effects on Working Memory But Not Long-Term Memory. J. Cogn. Enhanc., 2022, 6, 67–73.
- Profenno, L. A., Porsteinsson, A. P., and Faraone, S. V, Meta-Analysis of Alzheimer’s Disease Risk with Obesity, Diabetes, and Related Disorders. Biol. Psychiatry, 2010, 67, 505–512.
- Morris, M. C., Tangney, C. C., Wang, Y., et al., MIND diet slows cognitive decline with aging. Alzheimer’s Dement., 2015, 11, 1015–1022.