In honor of September being World Alzheimer’s Month, we’re taking a look at ways you can reduce your risk of developing it. While experts agree that this disease is probably caused by a variety of complex factors, some of these factors, such as age and genetics, can’t be changed. With others, you have more control.

1. Exercise Regularly and Stick to a Heart-Healthy Diet

Autopsy studies have shown that upwards of 80% of people with Alzheimer’s disease also had cardiovascular disease. Experts agree that conditions known to increase your risk of cardiovascular disease also increase your risk of developing Alzheimer’s.

Getting your high blood pressure, blood sugars, and cholesterol levels back to normal ranges is key. A healthy diet and exercise are the foundation for overall good health.

Not only does regular exercise improve your cardiovascular health, but it also releases a chemical in your brain that supports the memory system in the long term. Exercise is also important because it helps your brain’s ability to grow new neural pathways. And if those two reasons weren’t motivating enough, resistance training and physical exercise can decrease beta-amyloid plaque formation. These are the proteins that can build up in the brain and lead to Alzheimer’s.

While there are plenty of opinions on which diet is the healthiest, two have been studied and shown to be beneficial. They are the Mediterranean diet and the DASH diet.

Talking to your doctor about lifestyle changes is a good first step.

2. Prioritize Social Time

While researchers aren’t exactly sure why strong social connections can lower the risk of developing Alzheimer’s, they think it might have something to do with the mental stimulation spending time with friends and loved ones provides.

Make plans to get together with friends and family on the regular.

3. Protect Your Head

Head trauma and future risk of cognitive decline have been shown to have a strong link. This link is even more clear when the head trauma involves loss of consciousness.

If you are at risk of falls, make your environment safer by removing clutter, improving light, and getting rid of loose rugs. When in a car, always wear your seatbelt. And use a helmet when you participate in sports.

4. Get Your Flu and Pneumonia Vaccines

At the Alzheimer Association International Conference in 2020, research was released that suggested a link between getting the flu and pneumonia vaccines and a lower risk of developing Alzheimer’s. The link was stronger when the person received multiple doses of these vaccinations over the years.

5. Get Enough Sleep

The goal for adults is seven to eight hours of uninterrupted hours of sleep per night. Adequate sleep is crucial because it is during this time when our brains clear amyloid, those proteins that can build up and ultimately lead to Alzheimer’s.

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