Alzheimer’s disease is the sixth leading cause of death for all adults, and the fifth leading cause of death for adults over 65, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The disease, which affects the parts of the brain that control thought, language and memory can significantly impair a person’s ability to accomplish daily activities.
Warren Boling, MD, chairman of the department of neurosurgery at Loma Linda University Health, says that although the cause is still unknown, experts are constantly discovering more about what can be done to reduce the risks of developing Alzheimer’s disease.
“Risk factors point to an increased chance of developing the disease, and while some risk factors can’t be changed, there are others within your control, such as diet, exercise and sleep,” Boling says.
During Healthy Aging Month, Boling breaks down five risk factors that people can look out for to reduce the risk of dementia.
A plant-based diet has been linked to dementia prevention. Experts encourage eating leafy green vegetables, berries, whole grains, beans, nuts and olive oil. Foods that are anti-inflammatory and have antioxidant properties can protect against disease and keep the brain healthy.
A good exercise strategy is a combination of cardio exercise and strength training. Activities for beginners can include walking, yoga or swimming. Balance exercises are also key to keeping a healthy brain. Head traumas from falling or losing your balance can contribute to your risk of Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia.
Depression, social isolation
Numerous studies have shown that social isolation can increase cognitive decline and the risk of dementia. Feeling or being alone can make you more vulnerable to deteriorating health and increase the risks of late-life dementia.
Cigarette smoking can significantly increase a person’s risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. Smoking also increases the risk of heart problems, which could lead to a stroke or small bleed in the brain — another risk factor for dementia.
Research suggests that getting a good night’s sleep could make a significant impact on the mental effects of getting older. Sleep can benefit the mind and have long-term influence on a person’s risk for cognitive decline as they age. Adopting good sleep habits can help protect the brain’s health.
Loma Linda University Health neurosurgery providers are committed to ensuring all patients have access to the care they need — especially during this stressful time. Patients can schedule video visits by visiting lluh.org/video-visits, MyChart or calling their provider.