Regular workouts can help you run away from Alzheimer's.Feel anxious every time you forget where you put your keys? Simple memory slips aren't necessarily a sign you're developing Alzheimer's (unless they're frequent), but all of us want to prevent that scary disease.
Turns out, healthy lifestyle habits may prevent more than half of all Alzheimer's disease cases. That's right, the same smart steps you take to prevent heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, and other common conditions will help you fend off Alzheimer's, too. Check out these 6 ways to preserve your memory:
1. Don't smoke. This a biggie. You know smoking is bad for your lungs and not great for your heart. It's bad for your brain, too. A two-pack-a-day habit boosts your risk of Alzheimer's by 157%. "If you tried to quit and failed, try again," says RealAge cofounder Michael F. Roizen, M.D.
2. Get moving. A sedentary lifestyle is a key Alzheimer's risk factor. Whether it's walking, jogging, swimming, cycling, whatever's your favorite activity, make exercise a daily habit. Regular workouts help preserve gray matter, but you don't need to be a marathoner to benefit. Walking just 20 to 30 minutes a couple of times a week can help cut your Alzheimer's risk up to 60%.
3. Watch your cholesterol and blood pressure, and avoid diabetes. "All three threaten the arteries that deliver oxygen-rich blood to your brain cells," says Roizen. "Ignoring them boosts your risk of dementia by up to 46%."
4. Tweak your diet. Even small changes can help. Swap saturated fat (from full-fat dairy products, red meat, and other animal products) for brain-pampering omega-3 fatty acids (in coldwater fish) and monounsaturated fats (in nuts). Add more fresh produce and whole grains for folate and vitamins B12 and E. Combined, these strategies "could cut your Alzheimer's risk by a serious 38%," says Roizen.
5. Watch your weight. If you've put on pounds over the years, make it a point to lose 'em. A report in The Lancet last summer noted that midlife obesity is linked to an increased risk of Alzheimer's disease and other forms of dementia. The researchers estimated a 25% reduction in middle-age obesity could prevent nearly 100,000 new cases of Alzheimer's annually.
6. Be a life-long learner. The Lancet report also cited low education and cognitive inactivity as a significant risk factor for Alzheimer's. You don't have to be a Harvard Ph.D. (though it would help!), but you can challenge your mind in smaller ways, whether it's doing crosswords, learning a new language, or taking up a new hobby.
"Constant mental challenges are Miracle-Gro for your mind," says Roizen.
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