The statistics are staggering. According to The Wall Street Journal, "some 5.2 million people in the U.S. had Alzheimer's disease in 2014, a number that is expected to about triple by 2050." It's enough to make people take drastic measures. People like 30-something Max Lugavere, who was profiled in the very same Wall Street Journal article. Lugavere, whose mother has experienced memory loss but who has no symptoms himself, has made diet and exercise changes in hopes of having a different outcome. "The idea that I can take steps today that could benefit my brain and prevent the onset of any kind of neurological issue, I'm all about that," he tells the Journal.
Research into prevention is ongoing. And the jury's still out. It does, however, point to the impact of lifestyle choices (and subsequent changes) on Alzheimer's. Some of this research even suggests that a person's risk of heart disease can also increase their risk of Alzheimer's. Lifestyle choices such as proper nutrition and exercise to prevent heart disease also seem to delay the onset of memory loss.
Prevention centers such as the one Lugavere frequents are cropping across the nation, but not all experts are sold on this concept. As Ronald Petersen, M.D., Ph.D., director of the Mayo Clinic Alzheimer's Disease Research Center tells WSJ, "There is growing evidence that lifestyle modifications do have an impact on our cognitive aging … but to really say that we can prevent Alzheimer's disease is a bit of a stretch."
Still, there are things that can help. Earlier this year, Dr. Petersen offered these 7 tips on Mayo Clinic Radio:
- Stay mentally active. Crack that Sudoku code. Wordsmith your way through a crossword puzzle. Or flex your mental muscles with a Will Shortz puzzle.
- Socialize regularly. This may or may not be easy, depending on where you fall on the introvert/extrovert spectrum. But, making an effort to get together with others can keep depression and stress at bay (both of which can contribute to memory loss).
- Get organized. You're more likely to forget things if your surroundings are in disarray. (We're trying not to glance at our desks just now.) Jot down tasks, appointments and events. Keep to-do lists. Set aside a certain place for your wallet, keys and other essentials. You may find it helps with your recall.
- Sleep well. Seven to eight hours, that's what the experts recommend for adults. Sleep plays an important role in helping you consolidate your memories.
- Eat a healthy diet. A healthy diet might be as good for your brain as it is for your heart. Fruits, vegetables, whole grains. Cut the fat. You know the drill.
- Include physical activity in your daily routine. Physical activity increases blood flow to your whole body, including your brain. This might help keep your memory sharp. (Channel surfing does not count as physical activity.)
- Manage chronic conditions. Take care of you. Listen to the doctor and follow recommendations for anything that ails you. Your body and your mind will thank you for it.
If you're worried about memory loss, especially if it's getting in the way of your daily life, consult your physician.
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