Alzheimer's Disease Prevention:
Why it matters even at a young age
When you're young, it's easy to feel invincible. It's hard to imagine that someday you or someone you love could be dealing with a scary condition like Alzheimer's disease. But the fact is more than five million Americans have Alzheimer's disease, and two-thirds of them are women.
What is Alzheimer's disease?
Alzheimer's disease is a progressive, irreversible form of dementia that destroys brain cells. It's the sixth leading cause of death in the U.S., more than breast and prostate cancer combined.
Common symptoms of Alzheimer's disease include:
- Memory loss that disrupts your daily life or having trouble completing familiar tasks
- Sudden changes in mood or personality (acting fearful, anxious, suspicious)
- Confusion with time or location (forgetting where you are)
- Struggling with vocabulary in speaking or writing
- Exhibiting poor judgment, such as giving large amounts of money to telemarketers
- Ignoring personal hygiene
Can I prevent it?
Experts say Alzheimer's disease develops due to a variety of factors, including age, genetics, your environment and lifestyle or coexisting medical conditions.
You may be able to lower your risk by making healthy lifestyle choices such as:
- Eating a heart-healthy diet - Diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol are risk factors for both cardiovascular disease and Alzheimer's. Protect your head and heart by limiting sugar and saturated fats and eating plenty of whole grains, fruits and vegetables. Green, leafy and cruciferous vegetables can improve cognitive function, while salmon can reduce the production of amyloid plaques that develop in people's brains when they have the disease.
- Exercising your body and mind - Regular exercise helps brain cells by increasing the flow of oxygen to the brain. Keep your brain mentally fit by staying social, learning new things and exercising your brain with games and puzzles.
- Practicing brain safety - People who have experienced serious head trauma are at higher risk for Alzheimer's. Protect your brain by wearing a helmet during bike rides and vigorous sports, and always wear your seat belt.
- Knowing your risks - African Americans and Hispanics should know they are at higher risk than Caucasians for developing the disease. Talk to your doctor about your family history of the disease.
Start a conversation with your
primary care physician
now about how to prevent Alzheimer's, especially if you're concerned about specific risk factors.
If you're a caregiver for someone with Alzheimer's, remember to practice self-care. Check out support resources on
The Women's Alzheimer's Movement
Take our Alzheimer's Disease Quiz.