In the next 10 years, 1 in 10 baby boomers will be diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. A new study shows exercise, diet, and three other healthy habits can cut the chance of Alzheimer's by more than half.
But it's not just about doing one or two new healthy things. By combining four or five habits into a lifestyle of healthy aging, people exponentially increase their protective power.
The study looked at data from nearly 3,000 people to assess the impact of physical exercise, not smoking, high-quality diet, light-to-moderate alcohol consumption, and cognitive activities on their risk for Alzheimer's. Researchers concluded that those who adhered to four or five of these habits lowered their chances of Alzheimer's by 60%.
#1: Physical activity
Exercise is one of the best all-around ways to age well every day. To reap the protective benefits of physical activity, exercise at moderate to vigorous intensity for at least 150 minutes per week. That means exercising to the point of sweating and being slightly out of breath. Ruth Bader Ginsberg famously started exercising in her 60's and is still hitting the gym three times a week, well into her 80's. In her first decade lifting weights, her bone density actually increased - something her doctor had never seen happen before.
#2: Not smoking
While smoking cigarettes has (thankfully!) fallen out of vogue in many countries, it is still a major global health threat. Smoking constricts the blood vessels and impairs the lungs' ability to do their job properly, resulting in higher blood pressure and less oxygen to the brain. Even for people who have been smoking for decades, quitting significantly improves health.
#3: Light-to-moderate alcohol consumption
This means up to one drink per day for women and two for men, although the less alcohol consumed, the better. Portion sizes in America have grown out of control and that includes things like wine and beer glasses. While packaged and mixed drinks can vary significantly in alcohol content, the USDA defines one alcoholic drink-equivalent as containing 0.6 fluid ounces of pure alcohol.
#4: High-quality MIND diet
Using the term "diet" is misleading because the biggest benefits of the MIND diet are realized over the years and decades, not just the first few weeks and months. This nutritional approach combines the Mediterranean diet with the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension, or DASH, diet and focuses on dementia-preventing, plant-based foods.
#5: Cognitive activities
Keeping the mind engaged helps keep the brain healthy because the brain is designed to keep learning. One of the biggest mistakes people make after retirement is to stop practicing existing skills and learning new things. When neurons and the connections between them aren't used, they die off and never grow back. Cognitive activities are like exercise for the brain and should focus on creating and maintaining a plethora of skills and abilities like memory, attention, brain speed, and navigation.
To cut the risk of Alzheimer's, it's time to let go of old habits, patterns, and practices that no longer serve you and pick up new ones that do. It's about creating a new lifestyle that is focused on living your best life today and in the future. Not only will you slash your dementia risk, but you will also lower your chances of heart disease, cancer, diabetes, depression, and improve your body's ability to fight off infection.
If you're ready to start turning good intentions into effective actions and start aging well every day, download 30 Days to Better Brain Health today. It's like having a personal trainer for your brain! Get motivation, expertise, accountability, and a real plan to move from where you are today to where you want to be in the future.