An estimated 5.4 million Americans of all ages have Alzheimer’s. If that isn’t enough, 1 in 3 seniors die with Alzheimer’s or another type of dementia. It also kills more than breast and prostate cancer combined. Experts believe the number of Americans aged 65 and older with Alzheimer’s may nearly triple by 2050. It is no surprise then that we, as Americans, are taking notice of this disease and doing our part to raise awareness and research.
Even though it may seem out of our control, there are ways to be proactive in our fight against this disease. Some immediate risk factors include a sedentary lifestyle, smoking and drinking – in excess. The risk of those habits can be reduced in people with more brain connections since they are able to withstand the damage associated with these factors.
To look at how diet plays a role, a study tracked healthy adults around 74-years-old over three years. Those who ate lots of red meat, sugar and white bread declined significantly in brain power compared to those who spent a lifetime in complex jobs and a poor diet seemed to affect their brains more. Later, the researchers concluded that life-long mental stimulation, a dedicated social group, healthy diet, and physical activity is vital for prevention of dementia and other forms of the disease such as Alzheimer’s. A different study of over 1,000 adults at risk of cognitive impairment and Alzheimer’s disease showed similar results.
So what are the take-away messages? Physical activity, nutrition focusing on whole foods, cognitive training, social activities, and management of heart health risk factors are all ways to increase your longevity and maintain cognitive performance. Therefore, this November focus on challenging yourself mentally and physically as a preventative measure for the future!