How Can I Reduce My Risk of Alzheimer’s?

senior couple lunch home

Q. Several of my relatives on my mother’s side of the family have had Alzheimer’s, including my aunt, my uncle, and both my grandparents. My father’s sister currently has it too. I am concerned for myself and my own children, and I want to do whatever I can to reduce our risk of the disease, if at all possible.  I know there is no cure for Alzheimer’s, but are there any preventative measures I can take? Thanks for your help!

A. As you are aware, there is no cure for Alzheimer’s disease, but research is showing us that our everyday lifestyle choices are among the most important factors when it comes to Alzheimer’s prevention.

Currently, Alzheimer’s is well on its way to hitting epidemic proportions. According to the most recent statistics on the Alzheimer’s Association’s Website, one in nine people age 65 and older has Alzheimer’s disease, and by mid-century, someone in the United States will develop the disease every 33 seconds. At this time, Alzheimer’s is the number 6 cause of death and 1 in 3 seniors dies with Alzheimer’s or another type of dementia.

Although the numbers are shocking, they are not hopeless. As researchers press forward searching for a cure, they encourage people at risk to make positive lifestyle changes to help possibly stave off the disease. Below are things you can do to better your brain health and work to prevent Alzheimer’s:

Regular Exercise: Research shows that physical exercise reduces your risk of developing Alzheimer’s by 50%. But, how much exercise do you need? In a study published last year in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Research, researchers found that 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week—the CDC’s recommendation for adults—can significantly improve memory performance after just 12 weeks. So, it’s a good idea to commit to keeping active and including balance, coordination, and strength exercises to ensure a safe and effective workout. Be sure to check with your doctor before starting any exercise program.

Eat Healthy: Published in the American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, a recent study found people with mild memory problems who followed a Mediterranean diet, engaged in regular physical activity, or who had a normal body mass index (BMI) were less likely to experience a buildup of beta-amyloid and tau proteins in the brain. The research – led by Dr. David Merrill of the University of California-Los Angeles (UCLA) – comes only days after Medical News Today reported on another study hailing the benefits of a Mediterranean diet against Alzheimer’s, providing further evidence that lifestyle factors play an important role in the disease.

Drink Raw Fruit and Vegetable Juices: A study from Vanderbilt University found that drinking raw fruit and vegetable juices more than three times a week could cut the risk of developing Alzheimer’s by 76%.

Consider Vitamin K: Known as “the forgotten vitamin,” vitamin K plays a crucial role in anti-aging and may help prevent Alzheimer’s. Because vitamin K is not found in most multivitamins, many people consume it through green leafy vegetables or a vitamin K supplement.

Eat more fruit: A study completed in 2014 showed that fruits containing a compound called fisetin has Alzheimer’s-fighting properties. Commonly found in strawberries and mangos, fisetin has anti-inflammatory properties that effectively combated the onset of Alzheimer’s in mice.

Eat more fish: Fish is high in omega-3 fatty acids which can control blood clotting, build cell membranes in the brain, protect against heart disease, protect against brain atrophy, and possible slow Alzheimer’s and dementia.

Alter your diet: Following a diet that is rich in fish, chicken, olive oil and other foods high in omega-3s (see Mediterranean diet info above), may improve cognition and lower the risk of cognitive decline.

Limit Sugar Intake: Diabetes has been closely linked to Alzheimer’s with some researchers even calling the disease a third type of diabetes. Manage sugar intake and blood sugar levels to help keep your brain healthy.

Sleep Well: Studies have shown that while our bodies may be resting while we sleep, our brains are busy flushing out dementia-causing toxins. Restorative sleep can clean out byproducts of activity, including the beta-amyloid protein which is found in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients. Commit to making sleep a priority in your life and reap the benefits of improved brain health!

Manage Stress: Are you frequently stressed? A recent study shows that stress in middle age can cause dementia later in life. The study showed that there were more beta-amyloid proteins (proteins that are associated with Alzheimer’s) in mice who were highly stressed. Fight stress by taking time to meditate, accepting help from family, and physical exercise.

Social Engagement: Research shows that staying socially engaged may protect against Alzheimer’s in later life, so make developing and maintaining a strong network of friends a priority. Keep in mind that you don’t need to be a social butterfly to get brain benefits. When it comes to socializing, think quality, not quantity. In-person, face-to-face interaction is always best.

Sunshine: A major study suggests plenty of sunshine in retirement could reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s. The six-year study looked at 1,658 American adults aged 65 and over who were free from dementia, heart disease, and stroke at the outset. It found that those who were moderately deficient in Vitamin D had a 53% increased risk of developing any kind of dementia, and for those who were severely deficient, the risk increased to 125%. For the average person, such levels are achieved by about 20 minutes of mid-day sunshine on the face and forearms, three times a week.

Brain Training/Mental Exercise (non-repetitive):  Mental exercise to stave off dementia should not be repetitive, and can be as easy as changing the route you use to drive home from work every now and then. In a study released last month, researchers found that older adults who did mental exercises to shore up the speed at which they processed visual information could cut by nearly half their likelihood of cognitive decline or dementia over a 10-year period.

Learn early Alzheimer’s symptoms: Early detection is one key to slowing the progression of Alzheimer’s. Learning and recognizing symptoms as they first appear means that more treatment options are available. Early signs and symptoms of Alzheimer’s can include losing track of dates, vision problems, and trouble completing familiar tasks. Read more about symptoms and early detection here.

As you can see, by leading a brain-healthy lifestyle, you may be able to stave off or at least delay the onset of Alzheimer’s disease and slow down the process of deterioration.

Medicaid Asset Protection

Do you have a loved one who is suffering from Alzheimer’s   or another form of dementia? Sadly, our American health insurance system discriminates against people with Alzheimer’s and other forms of demetria because the care that people with dementia wind up needing is considered “long-term care” and not health care, even though it is simply the care that a person needs as a result of the disease they have. Because of this discrimination, people with dementia and their families face special legal and financial needs. At the Farr Law Firm, we are dedicated to easing the financial and emotional burden on those suffering from dementia and their loved ones.  We help protect your family’s hard-earned assets from this arbitrary discrimination in our healthcare system while maintaining your loved one’s comfort, dignity, and quality of life by ensuring eligibility for critical government benefits such as Medicaid and Veterans Aid and Attendance. If and when you or a family member receives a diagnosis of any type of dementia, please call us as soon as possible to make an appointment for an initial consultation:

Fairfax Alzheimer’s Planning: 703-691-1888
Fredericksburg Alzheimer’s Planning: 540-479-1435
Rockville Alzheimer’s Planning: 301-519-8041
DC Alzheimer’s Planning: 202-587-2797

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About Evan H Farr, CELA, CAP

Evan H. Farr is a 4-time Best-Selling author in the field of Elder Law and Estate Planning. In addition to being one of approximately 500 Certified Elder Law Attorneys in the Country, Evan is one of approximately 100 members of the Council of Advanced Practitioners of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys and is a Charter Member of the Academy of Special Needs Planners.