There is no guaranteed way to prevent Alzheimer's or dementia; however, there are ways to reduce the risk of developing the disease and ways to slow its progression.
Researchers have identified several controllable factors that individuals can manage to reduce their risk of developing the disease and slow its progression.
Prevention is Also Treatment
Each of the factors we discuss on this page has been shown to contribute to the risk of developing Alzheimer's. They have also been shown to contribute to the speed at which the disease advances.
Managing these risk factors not only reduces the risk of developing the disease, but can also reduce the rate at which the disease worsens.
Physical Exercise Reduces Alzheimer's Risk
Heart health is directly related to brain health; the heart supplies the brain with the blood and nutrients the brain needs to maintain itself. A healthy heart supplies the brain with the amount of blood it needs, an unhealthy heart may not.
Numerous studies have shown the beneficial effects of exercise on the health of brain. Cardiovascular exercise causes an increase in blood flow to the brain which brings nutrients which the brain uses to create new brain cells, maintain existing brain cells, and remove the brain's harmful waste products.
Dr Glenn Smith, a neuro-psychologist with the Mayo Clinic specializing in Alzheimer's, recommends to:
Be physically active, aim for going for a walk each day, but at least a minimum of 3 times a week
Learn More: Exercise and Alzheimer's
Nutrient Deficiencies Have Been Shown to Increase Alzheimer's Risk
As our bodies age they become less efficient at producing certain nutrients. Some of these nutrients are used in the brain and are necessary for healthy mental functioning.
In 2014 the American Academy of Neurology published a study showing a "clear link" between vitamin deficiencies prevalent in seniors and the development of Alzheimer's disease.
We recommend that every individual concerned about memory loss maintain a diet and take a supplement which addresses the vitamins linked to Alzheimer's and dementia.
Learn More: Vitamins and Alzheimer's
Some Common Medications Significantly Increase Alzheimer's Risk
Common anti-anxiety medications, benzodiazepines, have been found to increase the risk of developing Alzheimer's.
Individuals who were prescribed one of these anti-anxiety medications for 3 to 6 months were found to be 32% more likely to develop Alzheimer’s. Individuals who were prescribed it for more than six months were found to increase their risk of developing Alzheimer's by more than 80%.
Researchers theorize that these drugs may interfere with the brain's ability to repair itself and remove the waste products associated with Alzheimer's.
Learn More: Benzodiazepines and Alzheimer's
Smoking Damages the Brain, As Does Excessive Drinking
Regular Smokers Dangerously Increase Their Alzheimer's Risk.
It has been long known that smoking damages both the heart and brain, but recent evidence has emerged showing that smoking does more damage than previously believed.
In addition to the well-known brain shrinkage associated with smoking, smoking can also double your risk of developing Alzheimer's. Fortunately, many individuals see a significant improvement of their symptoms after quitting smoking.
Learn More: Smoking and Alzheimer's
Modest Alcohol Consumption Can Help; Over-consumption is Dangerous
A recent study found that moderate drinkers were 20% less likely to develop Alzheimer's than non-drinkers. The same study found that those who regularly over-consumed were three times more likely to develop a dementia as those who did not.
Over-consumption of alcohol was especially common in study participants diagnosed with early-onset dementia and Alzheimer's.
Learn More: Alcohol and Alzheimer's
Stimulating Mental Activity is Important for Brain Health
The mayo clinic emphasizes the importance of being mentally active, recommending:
Be socially active, spend time with your friends or family at least once a week. Social activity is some of the best mental stimulation.
One of the best ways stay mentally and physically active is to be involved in your community. Even attending an event once a week can make a difference.
Learn More: Social Stimulation and Alzheimer's
Monitor Memory Loss and Its Progression
Medications for Alzheimer's work by reducing symptoms and slowing the progression of the disease. These medications are most effective when started as early in the disease as possible.
Individuals who believe they may be beginning to experience memory loss should make efforts to monitor its progression so that if treatment is necessary they will be prepared to treat the disease as early as possible.
The best way for individuals to monitor potential symptoms is to speak with close friends and their physician to develop a strategy to monitor memory loss.
Learn More: Medications for Alzheimer's
Regular Poor Sleep Damages Increases The Risk of Alzheimer's
During sleep the brain repairs and prepares itself for the next day. It removes waste products, repairs damage, and produces new brain cells.
When sleep is interrupted, so are these restorative processes. Chronic interruption, like that associated with sleep apnea, and regular sleep deprivation, can disrupt these processes enough to result in damage to the brain and an increased risk of Alzheimer's.
Learn More: Sleep and Alzheimer's