Americans are living longer than past generations, in large part due to better medicine and health care practices and advancements in technology. Overall awareness of health and how to stay healthy has increased over the last few decades.
As the number of older adults continues to rise, it's also predicted that the number of people with Alzheimer's disease will increase.
However, there is some connection between lifestyle choices and the risk for developing Alzheimer's disease. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there are several risk factors for the disease.
Here's what you can do to reduce your risk of Alzheimer's disease and stay healthy as you age. These choices can also help prevent lots of other diseases and health problems.
Keep blood pressure low
Lowering blood pressure at any age for all people improves brain health and thinking.
The CDC estimates that 47% of American adults have high blood pressure. About 50% of men have high blood pressure compared to 44% of women.
These things can help prevent high blood pressure:
- Eat a healthy diet
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Be physically active
- Don't smoke
- Limit how much alcohol you drink
- Get enough sleep
Stay mentally and socially active
Mental and social activities may help your brain cope with disease and relieve stress. Several studies show that it's important to exercise your brain.
These activities could include crossword puzzles or other brain teasers, board games or card games, and learning a new language. Reading and creative writing, such as keeping a journal, can also stimulate your brain.
It's important to maintain social connections. Research shows this can help prevent depression and loneliness, while increasing happiness. Spending time with and talking to other people can also help you live longer.
Staying social could include finding a friend or neighbor to go on regular walks with or calling your family or friends at a specific time each week. If someone asks you to participate in a social activity, try to say "yes" when possible, and avoid finding an excuse.
Manage blood sugar levels
High blood sugar, also known as high glucose levels, can cause diabetes and can increase your risk of heart disease and stroke. It may also lead to the development of dementia and Alzheimer's disease.
Be mindful of the food you eat and get regular exercise. Limit the amount of carbohydrates (carbs) you eat. Your body breaks down carbs into sugars, mainly glucose. Eating more fiber and drinking more water can also help you regulate blood sugar levels.
Maintain a healthy weight
Being overweight or underweight can lead to many health risks. A healthy weight is based on individual factors, such as height, sex, age and activity level. Talk to your health care provider about what your healthy weight should be. A body mass index (BMI) calculator can also help you determine your body fat.
Important pieces to keeping a healthy weight include good nutrition and physical activity. The MyPlate Plan can help you determine how many calories you should be consuming each day.
Stay physically active
Exercise has many health benefits, including improved sleep, more energy, decreased stress and a reduced risk of depression. Experts say physical activity stimulates feel-good hormones and reduces stress hormones, while increasing blood flow to the brain.
It's recommended that people get at least 30 minutes of moderate activity (like walking or riding a bike) five days a week. Or you could shoot for two days of strength training and three days of at least 20 minutes of vigorous exercise (like jogging or swimming laps) each week.
If you haven't exercised in a while, start slowly, with an easy walk or even something lower impact, like gardening. You can try working up to longer or more difficult exercises. For best results, make it fun, which can help you make exercise a habit.
Smoking is harmful for your health in every way. Every year in the U.S. more than 480,000 people die from tobacco use and exposure to secondhand smoke, according to the American Lung Association.
Smoking and use of tobacco products like e-cigarettes, cigars, and smokeless tobacco cause or worsen a variety of diseases and conditions. Stopping smoking now can help maintain your brain health.
Avoid binge drinking or drinking too much alcohol
Alcohol interferes with how the brain communicates and can affect the way the brain looks and works. Heavy drinking can also cause damage to your liver, heart and pancreas. Drinking too much can weaken your immune system. Drinking a lot on a single night can slow your body's ability to defend against infection, up to 24 hours after getting drunk, according to the National Institute of Health.
The federal Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends that men limit alcohol to two drinks or less in a day and that women stick with one drink or less.
Instead of a few alcoholic drinks at night, try a few glasses of water with lemon, cucumber or mint. You will feel refreshed, and it will hydrate your body. It's helpful to find someone who can support you through this goal of limiting alcohol.
If you have a problem with alcohol abuse, it's important to get help. There are many treatment options and groups to help you get sober.