Here’s a headline on The Washington Post website that ought to get everybody’s attention: “Doing these five things could decrease your risk of Alzheimer’s by 60 percent, new study says.”
Everyone knows they’re going to die one day, and many people worry about how it will happen. Perhaps the greatest fear is being reduced to slowly fading away with no memories, which is the fate of those with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia.
Any habit or activity that could reduce the chance of Alzheimer’s certainly deserves attention. The five recommendations are:
• A high-quality diet of vegetables, poultry, seafood, nuts and berries, while avoiding red meat, fried foods, butter, cheese, pastries and sweets. Hmmm ... that may not be so easy. But it’s only one of five factors.
• Exercise at least 150 minutes a week. This includes biking, walking, swimming, gardening or yard work.
• Don’t smoke. Alzheimer’s is just one more reason to avoid this very unhealthy habit.
• Go easy on the alcohol. Limit yourself to one glass of wine a day.
• Keep your brain active. The story mentioned “mentally stimulating activities” such as reading a newspaper (a wonderful idea!), visiting the library or playing challenging games such as chess or checkers.
The results, presented earlier this month at an Alzheimer’s conference, included information compiled by a Chicago medical center on 2,765 older adults who were part of two federally funded studies.
A co-author of the report said researchers were not surprised to find that a healthier lifestyle would decrease the chance of dementia. But they were shocked by how much the activities actually reduced the likelihood of such diseases.
Researchers gave one point for each of the lifestyle factors that a participant followed. People with a score of 4 or 5 were 60 percent less likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease compared to those with a score of 0 or 1.
The average age of participants in one study was 73, and 81 in the other. Researchers said the results did not vary by race or gender, and the studies included men, women, blacks and non-Hispanic whites.
Here are the depressing statistics on Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia: Fifty million people worldwide are afflicted with one of the conditions today, and that number is expected to triple by 2050.
If this study is accurate, the good news is that everyone can do something to prevent it. Exercising your body and your brain is no guarantee of avoiding Alzheimer’s, but it’s like wearing a seat belt when you’re in a car: You have a better chance of coming out all right.