Alzheimer’s is a devastating brain disease. We don’t know what causes it. What can raise your chances of having Alzheimer's?
- Having a family member with Alzheimer’s (for example, a father, mother, sister, brother)
- Lifestyle (how you live and take care of yourself)
You can't control age or choose your family members. But you can control your lifestyle.
How to help keep your brain healthy
A word of caution: You can adopt all the right habits and still get Alzheimer's. Scientists don't know if lifestyle changes can keep you from getting Alzheimer's. But, we know that these habits are good for brain and body:
- Spend time with family and friends. Interacting with other people stimulates the brain. It's also good to reach out to new people. Join a community or volunteer. Doing things like joining a walking group or dancing with others is even better.
- Challenge yourself. When it comes to brain power, it’s "use it or lose it." Do puzzles, learn new card games or try a new sport. Do the same things in different ways. Seek out new experiences. Take a class. When you walk or drive, take different routes.
- Nosh on heart-healthy foods. Follow a Mediterranean diet. Eat plenty of whole grains, fruits and vegetables, plus fish, nuts and olive oil.
- Exercise regularly. When you get up and move (like walking), your brain gets more blood and makes new brain cells. Exercise also lowers your chance of developing dementia (serious memory loss), heart problems, stroke and diabetes. Pick something you enjoy and can stick with over time. Even better, find a partner to do it with you. Check with your doctor before you begin to make sure it's safe for you.
- Be safe. Wear a helmet if you do things like bike riding, skiing or motorcycle riding. Head injuries can damage the brain. Don’t forget to buckle your seat belt when you drive. Smoking and drinking can also raise your chances of developing Alzheimer’s. If you smoke, quit. If you choose to drink, do so in moderation.
National Institute on Aging. Alzheimer’s Disease Education and Referral Center. Preventing Alzheimer’s disease: what do we know? Accessed March 17, 2014.
Helpguide.org. Alzheimer’s and dementia prevention. How to reduce your risk and protect your brain. Accessed March 17, 2014.
Alzheimer's Association. Brain health. alz.org/help-support/brain_health Accessed March 17, 2014.