According to recent statistics, Alzheimer's Disease is the 6th leading cause of death among the elderly. In fact, it is estimated that someone is diagnosed with Alzheimer's Disease in the United States every 68 seconds. Many people think of diseases like Alzheimer's, Parkinson's and other dementias that typically afflict the elderly as "inevitable" – but research has shown quite the opposite.

Today, we've identified quite a lot of factors that contribute to your risks as you grow older. Here then, are the top 12 ways – in no particular order, mind you – to prevent Alzheimer's Disease:

 

#1 - Drink More Juice

Drinking 3 or more servings of fruit and vegetable juices per week can reduce your risk of developing Alzheimer’s Disease by as much as 76%!

In a large epidemiological study conducted from 1992 through 2001 called the Ni-Hon-Sea Project followed a large number of Japanese aged 65 or older. It found that those who consumed fruit or vegetable juice 3 or more times per week, were 76% less likely to develop Alzheimers Disease.

Furthermore, this effect was especially clear amongst study subjects who carried “apolipoprotein E epsilon-4 allele”, which is a genetic marker linked to late-onset Alzheimers disease. According to studies, those who carry this gene are between 10 and 30 times more likely to develop the disease.

It would be logical to presume that most of those who cited drinking fruit and vegetable juices regularly were accustomed to it, and probably did so much of their adult lives. However it’s never too late to change your habits and improve your odds!

Reference: vanderbilt.edu / nih.gov / nih.gov

 

#2 - Exercise Your Mind

Maintaining and improving upon your education and literacy can reduce your risk of developing Alzheimer’s by up to 70%.

An ongoing study called, aptly, “The Nun Study”, begun in 1986 and has been a rich source of data about the way mental diseases propagate. Among other findings, one that stands out is a correlation between literacy and outlook on life early, versus incidence of Alzheimer’s later in life.

Upon taking their vows, nuns are required to write an autobiographical essay of their life up to that point – typically in their early 20’s. Strikingly, researchers found a significant connection between these essays and occurrence of later-life dementia and/or Alzheimer’s Disease. Specifically, language density. Those who tended to express fewer ideas for the number of words written were significantly more at risk – often 60 years later!

And it’s not just a nun thing. Several studies have shown that education level directly correlated with higher prevalence of dementia. The findings suggest that education increases the synaptic density in your brain – and this would act to directly slow the onset of diseases like Alzheimer’s which are linked to synaptic loss. In other words – the stronger your brain, the harder it is to break it down.

Reference: alzheimermonterrey.com

 

#3 - Eat foods rich in Folic Acid & Vitamin B12 - like Broccoli or Beets

Increasing your intake of Vitamin B12 / Folic Acid can decrease your risk of developing Alzheimer’s Disease and Vascular Dementia – the two major subtypes of dementia – by up to 75%!

Folic Acid is used in the body to properly metabolize methionine. Why is that important? Because without enough Vitamin B12 available to facilitate this metabolism, the methionine in your system will go through an enzymatic reaction to produce Homocysteine.

Homocysteine is a sulfer-containing amino acid, and it is normal to have some of this in your system – however elevated levels of homocysteine is toxic to the DNA of brain cells, and can contribute to their premature death. It can also cause mitochondrial membrane damage, cerebral microangiopathy, and accelerated destruction of small blood vessels in the brain.

For those of us who are not bio-chemists, the bottom line is you need to make sure you get plenty of Vitamin B12! Studies have repeatedly shown that individuals with higher regular intake were significantly less likely not only to have Alzheimers, but also heart disease as well.

Reference: jamanetwork.com / themedicalbiochemistrypage.org

 

#4 - Get More Physical Exercise

Staying physically active and performing regular exercise can reduce your risk of developing Alzheimer’s Disease by as much as 50%!

A study performed in 2009 determined that participants who took part in regular exercise (to include such activities as aerobics, jogging, bicycling, swimming, hiking, tennis, etc) were at least 29% less likely to develop Alzheimer’s than those who did not. Those who participated in higher intensity, more vigorous exercise were at minimum, 37% less at risk than the sedentary group.

While the specific physiological reasons for this connection were not a part of this particular study, other research has found that incidents of Alzheimer’s Disease often correlate with Heart Disease. It is believed inflammation, oxidative stress, and hypoxia (an oxygen deficit caused by impaired blood flow) can all cause increased risk – all of which are in common with heart disease.

Reference: jamanetwork.com / lef.org

 

#5 - Stay Social

Maintaining a healthy social network has been linked with lower occurrence and lessened severity of cognitive degradation.

We all know that human beings are fundamentally social creatures – but who would have thought that having friends could protect you from mental illnesses? According to research published in 2006, those who maintained an active social circle as they grew older had healthier cognitive function than those who tended to prefer isolation.

Further studies and research have suggested that maintaining an active and healthy social circle can actually protect against forms of dementia including Alzheimer’s.

Reference: thelancet.com / nih.gov

 

#6 - Eat More Fish

Eating fish at least once or more per week (or taking supplements containing the DHA Omega 3, if you’re more the vegetarian type) can reduce your risk of developing Alzheimer’s Disease by up to 60%!

Sound fishy? It’s backed by science. A primary component of membrane phospholipids in the brain is called docosahexaenoic acid, or DHA. High levels of DHA are found in the more metabolically active areas of the brain, and contribute directly to the healthy production of synapses and mitochondria.

Fish is a direct dietary source of DHA. A study of adults ranging from 65 or 94 years old showed that those who consumed fish as part of their regular diet at least once per week were 60% less likely to develop Alzheimer’s Disease. Further, DHA intake has been shown to improve memory and reaction time in healthy adults of all ages. It’s a win-win scenario!

Reference: jamanetwork.com / nih.gov

 

#7 - Watch Your Blood Pressure

We all know that high blood pressure can be dangerous, but did you know that untreated high blood pressure in your 50’s can increase your chances of dementia or Alzheimer’s Disease later in life by nearly 18%?

It’s a fact. A study published in 2010 showed that of those study subjects who didn’t die of other related issues like diabetes, coronary heart disease and stroke, the remainder were 17.7% more likely to have Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia than the average population.

The good news? If you have high blood pressure and take medication to control it, you may see a slight improvement in your odds. While high blood pressure has been linked to increased risk, certain blood pressure medications have been linked to reduced risks. So if you’re not doing something to control your blood pressure, now is the time to take action!

Reference: ahajournals.org / alzinfo.org

 

#8 - Get Plenty of Sleep

If you regularly run on just a few hours of sleep, or have particularly disturbed or low quality sleep, your risk increases for Alzheimer’s.

Research has linked a lack of proper sleep patterns with increased rates of cognitive impairment later in life. Studies have shown that not only do those with Alzheimer’s disease regularly spend less time asleep than healthy individuals, but lack of quality sleep promotes a build-up of beta-amyloid plaques in the brain – which is itself, a sign of Alzheimer’s Disease.

According to the latest reports, sleep patterns and beta-amyloid deposition have been shown to correlate - so making sure you get a good night’s sleep is a sure-fire way to improve your chances of avoiding the disease!

It is worth pointing out however, that the number of times a person awoke during the night had no impact. Rather, it was the duration and sleep quality that made a difference.

Reference: nih.gov / alz.org

 

#9 - Get More Vitamin C and Vitamin E

You may only think about getting more vitamin C when you’re down with a cold – but taking Vitamin C and Vitamin E supplements in combination can actually cut your risks of Alzheimer’s Disease by 50%!

Oxidation is a chemical reaction that is normal, wherein electrons or hydrogen are transferred from a substance over to an oxidizing agent. This process can, in turn, produce “free radicals” which are essentially an atom or molecule that is not stable – it has an open bond and will seek to react with other substances to resolve this issue. Some free radicals are normal and beneficial in the body, but others can be destructive, causing chain reactions that can damage or even kill cells.

Vitamins C and E are antioxidants. They safely terminate chain reactions caused by free radicals by being oxidized themselves. And studies have shown that while taking only one or the other had no pronounced effect, taking both together reduced the likelihood of late-onset Alzheimer’s by 50%.

What foods are rich in both? Broccoli, for one. Papaya, Guava, Kiwi, Strawberries and Raspberries are also great choices. Spinach, Avocados and Sunflower seeds are excellent sources of Vitamin E, and you may be surprised to learn that Peppers, Kale and Leeks are all better sources of Vitamin C than oranges.

Reference: nih.gov

 

#10 - Control Your Sugar Intake

Maintaining a diet low in sugar and requiring lower insulin production has been directly linked with decreased risk of dementia – primarily Alzheimer’s.

We already know a lot about blood sugar in general, as a society. With obesity and lack of exercise ever increasing in the United States, Diabetes has become more and more prevalent as well. It is estimated that 8.3% of adults (worldwide) have Type 2 Diabetes, and it is believed that Diabetes has caused 4.9 million deaths in 2014 alone. Right now, a person dies from Diabetes every 7 seconds.

What is lesser known, is that blood glucose levels have been directly linked to prevalence of dementia including Alzheimer’s Disease. And rather than a percentage of risk to cite based on increase or decrease, researchers found that the risk directly correlates with blood glucose levels.

While your increased risk of Alzheimer’s is far less significant than your increased risk of Diabetes from a sugar-rich diet, the fact is that a diet rich in sugar is working against you in more ways than one.

Reference: nejm.org / annals.org / thelancet.com / idf.org

 

#11 - Stay Positive

Want to hear a depressing fact? Depression has been linked to Alzheimer’s Disease and other dementias. But it’s not all bad – once you know, you have a whole new reason to fight depression!

Research has shown for some time now that depression – especially major depression – has ties to developing dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease later in life. In fact, a history of major depression can signify as great as a 50% increased risk. Recent studies of late-life depression have found even stronger evidence of this, to the tune of an additional 10%.

Researchers are undecided on exactly what factors come into play here – some theorize that increased levels of cortisol, a hormone related to the stress response, could play some role. Other evidence suggests that depression can be a contributing factor in chronic inflammation which damages blood vessels in the brain.

Whatever the ultimate tie-in, if you’re battling with depression, here’s one more really powerful reason to take back your life again!

Reference: rcpsych.org / nih.gov / springer.com

 

#12 - Limit Your Stress

Chronic or severe stress can have powerful and dramatic effects on your body over all – but it can also increase your risk of Alzheimer’s Disease and dementia later in life.

This one is a little more complicated, so bear with me here.

Stress does a lot to your body. Physical symptoms of stress can include low energy, headaches, nausea, pains, tense muscles, chest pain, rapid heartbeat, increased blood pressure, and even an increased susceptibility to colds, viruses and infections. Stress can also put your mind through a variety of powerful symptoms like racing thoughts, feeling overwhelmed, inability to relax, forgetfulness, and can lead to depression, poor judgment, pessimism and isolation. If you recognized any of these things from the previous risk factors above, very good – you’re paying attention!

On a deeper physiological level, your body releases hormones when you’re under stress like cortisol, which are designed to prepare your body to fight or flee from a situation or event. This causes your heart rate to rise, increasing blood flow which in turn increases oxygen uptake in your lungs. Your immune system is also suppressed temporarily.

Chronic stress, however, causes your body to produce quite a lot of these hormones on a sustained basis. Cortisol, for one, can damage all kinds of bodily systems when present in excess. It prevents glucose from being taken up properly by brain cells, and blocks neurotransmitter function. The effects may be so pronounced in fact as to produce short-term memory loss.

So how does this tie to Alzheimer’s Disease? Strikingly.

Beyond the other obvious reasons, studies have now shown that 72% of Alzheimer’s patients had experienced severe emotional stress during the 2 years prior to diagnosis. Typical stress factors included loss of a spouse or child, violent experiences such as assault, auto accidents, financial problems, or diagnosis of severe illness in another family member.

Ever notice that a period of high stress can often precede a cold or illness? The same has been shown true on a larger scale with dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease. In much the same way that stress lowers our body’s defenses against disease, so it can also lower our defenses against cognitive disease – and at just the time when we’re most vulnerable.

Reference: springer.com / webmd.com / mercola.com