The American Brain Foundation funds research across all brain diseases with the understanding that if we cure one disease, we will cure many. This includes diseases like Alzheimer’s, which affects more than 6 million Americans.
Alzheimer’s causes brain changes that affect memory, thinking, and the ability to complete daily tasks, and currently there is no cure. However, there are steps you can take to reduce your risk:
1. Protect your heart
Four major risk factors directly relate to heart health: high blood pressure, obesity, diabetes, and smoking.
You can reduce your risk by using medication and making lifestyle changes to lower blood pressure and cholesterol, eating healthily to manage your weight, and working with a doctor to manage your blood sugar. You can also talk to your doctor about how to quit smoking.
2. Get moving
According to Richard Isaacson, M.D., FAAN, exercise can be the brain’s first defense against amyloid plaque, which builds up in the brains of people who have Alzheimer’s. Aim for 30 minutes of daily activity.
3. Stay socially and mentally active
Get together regularly with family and friends. Meet new people, and work or volunteer with community groups. Read or do puzzles daily and build vital backup pathways in the brain by learning a skill, such as a new language.
4. Avoid head injury
Head trauma, whether severe or mild, increases dementia risk. Wear a seatbelt, play sports safely, and treat any head injury immediately.
5. Treat depression, hearing loss, and substance abuse
Excessive alcohol consumption, hearing loss, and depression increase the risk for dementia. You can greatly lower your risk by drinking in moderation and wearing hearing aids.
Additionally, it’s critical to reach out to friends, family members, a doctor, or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (800-273-8255) if you experience symptoms of depression, such as frequent or extreme sadness, self-isolating tendencies, or thoughts of self-harm.
This article is brought to you by the American Brain Foundation and Brain & Life®, the American Academy of Neurology’s patient and caregiver magazine and website.