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5 ways you're putting yourself at risk for early-onset Alzheimer's disease

Posted May 11

It can come sooner than you think. (Deseret Photo)

Nothing is harder than having someone you love forget who you are. While Alzheimer’s affects one in ten people over the age of 65, almost five percent of adults between the ages of 40 and 60 are diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s. Surprisingly enough, 99 percent of Alzheimer cases are not hereditary. In the remaining one percent, those with the hereditary gene can develop Alzheimer’s as early as in their early 30s.

Fortunately, there are several ways to combat the risk of developing the disease. Here are five habits you might have that are increasing the risk of being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s at an early age:

1. Not getting enough sleep

Are you having difficulty getting a full night’s sleep? Research shows that people with chronic sleeping problems — such as insomnia and sleep apnea — are more at risk to develop Alzheimer’s later on in life. The same research found in a study involving 7,500 women that those who received less than an average of six hours of sleep each night were 36% more likely to develop Alzheimer’s.

To combat this, make sure you’re sticking to a regular sleeping schedule. If you wake up early during the week, make sure you wake up at the same time on the weekends. Make your bedroom a quiet and clean place for sleep, not a place for scrolling social media. If necessary, take some natural non-addictive sleep aids, such as Melatonin.

2. Ignoring chronic illnesses

Untreated hypertension and diabetes are two of the greatest risk factors for dementia. For both diseases, medication, diet, exercise and frequent visits with your physician can lower the risks drastically.

3. Eating a poor diet

We all know the importance of eating a well-balanced diet for the sake of our weight and heart, but did you know the food you eat also makes a difference for your brain?

Studies have found that white breads, pasta, microwave popcorn, and processed meats and cheeses have all been linked to memory loss and Alzheimer’s. Our brain needs healthy fats, lean proteins, vitamins and minerals to function properly. Walnuts, eggs and blueberries are a few of the many “brain foods” that can help reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s. Find ways to incorporate these foods into your diet to improve your brain's health.

4. Not exercising your body

Physical activity helps the brain not only by keeping the blood flowing, but by creating healthy endorphins, which protect the brain. Exercising on a regular basis can also improve memory, reasoning and judgement and even delay the symptoms of Alzheimer’s.

5. Not exercising your mind

Exercising your mind is just as important as exercising your body. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, “keeping the brain active seems to increase its vitality and may build its reserves of brain cells and connections.”

Games like crossword puzzles and chess can help keep the brain stimulated and reduce the risk of developing dementia-related diseases such as Alzheimer’s.

These bad habits are not an absolute guarantee that you will develop Alzheimer’s disease, but combatting these risk factors will definitely improve your mental health. Find ways to incorporate better health habits to keep your mind and your body as healthy as possible.

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