Lifestyle and Heart Health

There’s no lifestyle factor that’s been conclusively shown to reduce risk of Alzheimer’s disease.

Evidence suggests that the same risk factors for heart disease may increase the risk for Alzheimer’s. Examples include:

Lack of exercise
Smoking
High blood pressure
High cholesterol
Poorly controlled diabetes

These risk factors are also linked to vascular dementia, a type of cognitive decline caused by damaged blood vessels in the brain. Many people with cognitive decline have brain changes characteristic of both Alzheimer’s disease and vascular dementia. Some researchers think that each condition helps fuel the damage caused by the other.

Activities that may reduce risk include:
Lifelong learning and social engagement
Studies have found an association between lifelong involvement in mentally and socially stimulating activities and reduced risk of Alzheimer’s disease.

Other factors that may reduce risk of Alzheimer’s include:
Higher levels of formal education
A stimulating job
Mentally challenging leisure activities, such as reading, playing games, or playing a musical instrument
Frequent social interactions

Scientists can’t yet explain this link. One theory is that using your brain develops more cell-to-cell connections, which protects the brain against the impact of Alzheimer-related changes. Another theory is that it may be harder to measure cognitive decline in people who exercise their minds frequently or who have more education. Still another explanation is that people with Alzheimer’s disease may be less inclined to seek out stimulating activities years before their disease can be diagnosed.

 

Sources

“Alzheimer’s Disease | Symptoms | Causes | Complications | Treatments | Prevention.” MeSted, 6 May 2012, medsted.wordpress.com/2012/05/06/alzheimers-disease-symptoms-causes-complications-treatments-prevention/.

Mayo Clinic Staff. “Alzheimer’s Disease: Overview.” Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 30 Dec. 2017, www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/alzheimers-disease/symptoms-causes/syc-20350447.

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