Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia, which leads to loss of memory and other mental functions. It’s thought to be caused by an abnormal build-up of proteins in and around brain cells, which leads to a decrease in neurotransmitters (chemicals which send messages between brain cells). Different areas of the brain shrink overtime, including the areas responsible for memory.
While scientists are still unsure of the exact cause of Alzheimer’s, several factors have been identified which increase your risk of developing the condition, including age, genetics, cardiovascular disease and diabetes.
There is no proven way to prevent Alzheimer’s, but there are healthy lifestyle choices you can make, such as physical activity, eating a balanced diet, staying mentally and socially active, and maintaining good overall health, which may lower your risk.
Regular exercise may help to lower your risk of cardiovascular disease, which may put you at risk of Alzheimer’s. Physical activity also increases blood and oxygen flow in the brain, directly benefiting your brain cells and lowering your risk of Alzheimer’s.
Eat a healthy, balanced diet
A healthy, balanced diet is associated with a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease and, therefore, a reduced risk of Alzheimer’s.
You could consider the Mediterranean diet, which is rich in fresh fruits and vegetables, legumes, whole grains, nuts, olive oil and fish which contains omega-3 fatty acids.
The DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet may also be beneficial to lowering the risk of Alzheimer’s. The DASH diet is rich fresh fruits and vegetable, legumes, whole grains, seeds, nuts, fish, poultry, fat-free or low-fat dairy products, and vegetable oils.
Limit sugar, salt, red meat and saturated fats in your diet.
Stay mentally and socially active
It may be possible to reduce your risk of Alzheimer’s disease by remaining mentally and socially active, especially as you get older. To remain mentally active, you consider the following:
- Learning a new language
- Playing musical instruments
- Trying new activities/hobbies
- Playing “brain training” computer games or memory skills games
Stay in touch with family and friends as often as possible to maintain an active social life. You could also consider joining a sports or cultural club.
Complete health assessments
Make sure that you have regular health assessments (HRAs), which check your blood pressure, as well as your cholesterol and blood sugar levels. If are diagnosed with hypertension, high cholesterol and/or diabetes, make sure that you follow your healthcare practitioner’s advice and take your prescribed medication.
All Bestmed beneficiaries are entitled to one free HRA per year at a participating pharmacy. The HRA unlocks your Bestmed Tempo wellness programme benefits, including visits to a network dietician and biokineticist for overall well-being.
Protect your head
A link between serious head trauma, especially when it renders you unconscious, and a risk of Alzheimer’s disease has been identified. Reduce your risk of head injuries by:
- wearing a helmet when participating in sports.
- wearing a seat belt.
- making sure that your home is fall proof. Minimise clutter, secure loose rugs and make sure that you have good lighting.
Vaccinate for flu and pneumonia
Research released at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference 2020 suggests that multiple flu and pneumonia vaccinations over time is associated with a lower risk of Alzheimer’s. More research is needed to determine whether a flu vaccination on its own can reduce your risk of Alzheimer’s.
Bestmed offers free flu and pneumonia vaccinations to all Bestmed beneficiaries across all plans as part of its preventative care benefits.
What to avoid
Avoid smoking and alcohol. This should benefit not only your overall health, but your heart’s health and, therefore, lowers your risk of developing Alzheimer’s.
Though the exact cause of Alzheimer’s is unclear and there is no definite way to prevent it, a healthy lifestyle which includes regular exercise, a healthy diet, and an active mind and social life may help to reduce your risk. It’s especially important that you complete regular HRAs and take precautions to prevent head injuries, as well as go for annual flu and pneumonia vaccinations.