Women are more likely to develop Alzheimer’s, but here’s how to lower your risk.
Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia, and almost two-thirds of Americans with the disease are women. It is not exactly known why women are more affected by Alzheimer’s than men or what directly affects your risk of developing the disease. But there are some lifestyle factors you can control that may potentially reduce your risk.
The tips listed below aren’t guaranteed to prevent Alzheimer’s disease, but research suggests that these lifestyle factors may possibly reduce your Alzheimer’s risk. Even if there’s not enough evidence to prove that they’ll definitely lower your risk, these habits will improve your health in other ways, too.
- Exercise. Just about every part of the body benefits when you exercise and your brain is no exception. Regular aerobic exercise, such as walking, biking, swimming and dancing, is good for your body in so many ways. Of all the potential lifestyle factors that may have an effect on the development or progression of Alzheimer’s, physical activity appears to be one of the most important.
- Eat a balanced diet. The Mediterranean diet, a diet rich in vegetables, fruits, legumes, whole grains, nuts, fish and olive oil, has been associated with a lower risk of Alzheimer’s and improved cognition. Even if you can’t follow the diet completely, adding more of these foods to your diet in place of foods that contain saturated fat and added sugar is good for your health.
- Get enough sleep. There is growing evidence that getting enough good quality sleep may help clear beta-amyloids from the brain. This is a naturally occurring protein that clumps together to form plaques in the brain that disrupt function and may contribute to Alzheimer’s.
- Manage blood sugar levels. When you have diabetes, your body becomes insulin resistant, which is closely tied to inflammation. Inflammation may be a factor in the creation of protein buildup in the brain that can disrupt several of its functions.
- Control blood pressure. When you have high blood pressure, or other heart or vascular conditions, it may affect blood flow throughout your body. This may be a possible risk factor for Alzheimer’s because blood flow to the brain may be reduced.
- Stay socially connected. Although the evidence is minimal, it appears that having more social contact with people as you age may help prevent Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia. There is not enough information to say that this is a definitive way to lower risk, but being socially connected can also improve your mental health.
- Learn new things. Keeping your mind stimulated by learning new things may help improve brain function, although it is not quite clear if it has any impact specifically on the development of Alzheimer’s disease.
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Date Last Reviewed: April 15, 2022
Editorial Review: Andrea Cohen, Editorial Director, Baldwin Publishing, Inc. Contact Editor
Dietary Review: Perry Pitkow, MD