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Although there’s a long way to go in researching Alzheimer’s, it’s exciting that we’re finding strong links to behavior being a primary factor. Alzheimer’s used to be this big Boogeyman lurking in the corner that could strike anyone, and it seemed like there were no obvious connections.

Some people were just unlucky.

We know that age, genetics, and family history play a part in whether or not someone is at risk, but now we also know that behavior and lifestyle are significant factors as well. When we realize that our very controllable life-choices may “make or break” us, we can be proactive in taking immediate steps toward our health, both now and for the future.

Not to mention, they’re things we should be doing anyway.

Last week we talked about Alzheimer’s being linked to processed sugar and diabetes. This week, we’ll take a look at some other life-choices that we have immediate control over.

  • Physical Exercise- As with most health issues, physical activity and cardiovascular health play a major role. In fact, a review by scientists at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles found that as many as 1/3 cases of Alzheimer’s disease were preventable through lifestyle changes. The World Health Organization recommends that adults 65 and better be active for at least 150 minutes with moderate-intensity aerobic activity per week, or 75 minutes of high-intensity activity. Exercise always plays an important part in keeping us healthy!
  • Diet- Heart-healthy eating protects the brain as well. It’s important that we limit the processed sugar, carbs, and saturated fats all the while making sure to eat plenty of fruits, veggies, and whole grains. Two lifestyle diets that make be worth looking into are the DASH diet, and Joe’s favorite, the Mediterranean diet.
  • Sleep- In a study done on a group of sleep-deprived participants, researchers found “that losing just one night of sleep led to an immediate increase in beta-amyloid, a protein in the brain associated with Alzheimer’s disease, and that the research “provides new insight about the potentially harmful effects of a lack of sleep on the brain and has implications for better characterizing the pathology of Alzheimer’s disease,” said Dr. George F. Koob, director of NIAAA, of their findings.

In addition to the aforementioned lifestyle behaviors, let’s not forget the obvious importance of abstaining from alcohol and smoking. Whenever there are risk factors of a life-threatening disease, we can be sure that those are two of the culprits at the top of the list. It’s better to stay away from them altogether for a myriad of reasons.

There may still be a long way to go in finding a cure for this devastating disease, but knowing that we can potentially prevent it from happening is incredibly hopeful and empowering. We have control over our health, and we sure as heck can be empowered to kick the Boogeyman back into the corner!