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Alzheimer's Secrets That Really Work, Say Physicians

There are steps you can take today to reduce your risk significantly.
FACT CHECKED BY Emilia Paluszek

For generations, Alzheimer's disease has been one of the most-feared conditions associated with aging. The progressive disease—for which there is currently no cure—interrupts a person's ability to remember, reason, and even function independently. But in recent years, research has uncovered some of the risk factors that can lead to Alzheimer's. There are steps you can take today to reduce your risk significantly. Read on to find out more—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.

1

Exercise Regularly

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Regular exercise is the most important thing you can do for brain health, says neurosurgeon and CNN chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta. "Exercise, both aerobic and nonaerobic (strength training), is not only good for the body; it's even better for the brain," he writes in his book Keep Sharp. "Using sugar to fuel your muscles instead of sitting idle in your blood helps prevent dramatic glucose and insulin fluctuations … that increase the risk for dementia. Exercise also helps lower inflammation, and that is critical in preventing dementia."

2

Stay Social

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Social isolation is a major risk factor for Alzheimer's disease. In research published in a 2020 issue of Journals of Gerontology, Swedish scientists followed nearly 2,000 people for up to 20 years. They found that people who reported being lonely were two-and-a-half times more likely to develop Alzheimer's than people who weren't lonely.

3

Mind Your Vision

Asian woman worker suffering from eye strain taking off her eyeglasses tired from working on computer screen
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According to a study published in JAMA Internal Medicine, older people who have cataracts removed are nearly 30 percent less likely to develop dementia, including Alzheimer's, than people with cataracts who don't get the surgery. Impaired vision is associated with an increased risk of dementia because a person who has trouble seeing is less likely to keep the mind active by reading, watching movies and TV, playing games, and socializing with others.

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4

Get Enough Quality Sleep

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A study published last year in the journal Nature Communications found that people over 50 who sleep less than six hours a night are 30% more likely to develop dementia in their later years. Why? As we sleep, the brain undergoes a "rinse cycle," clearing away debris and toxins that can build up and contribute to dementia. Aim for seven to nine hours of quality sleep each night.

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5

Stop Smoking

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One of the many reasons smoking is bad for your health: It impairs brain function. Smoking just one cigarette a day can reduce cognitive ability, and smoking 15 cigarettes daily hinders critical thinking and memory by almost 2 percent. When you stop smoking, your brain benefits from increased circulation almost instantly.

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6

Observe a Healthy Lifestyle

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A study published recently in PLOS Medicine found that a healthy lifestyle—meaning one that follows recommendations about smoking, alcohol consumption, weight, diet and exercise—can lower your risk of cognitive impairment by 55%. And that was true even among people who have an increased genetic risk of dementia and Alzheimer's disease."Our results, corroborated by other interventional studies on lifestyle modification and cognitive function, support the importance of maintaining a healthy lifestyle throughout the life course, even among the oldest old," the researchers wrote. 

Michael Martin
Michael Martin is a New York City-based writer and editor whose health and lifestyle content has also been published on Beachbody and Openfit. A contributing writer for Eat This, Not That!, he has also been published in New York, Architectural Digest, Interview, and many others. Read more about Michael