Three ways to help prevent dementia and Alzheimer’s disease

13 June 2024

June is here—and in addition to officially kicking off summer, it’s also Alzheimer’s and Brain Awareness Month. While June is used to recognize and support those experiencing cognitive decline, it can also be a month for both young and old to take proactive steps to achieve and maintain optimal brain health.

Among older adults, Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia, and the seventh leading cause of death in the U.S. This brain disorder starts slowly—possibly decades before symptoms appear—making identifying protective factors early in life critical. 

Though typically categorized as a disease for older adults, anyone can take steps now to potentially reduce their risk of developing Alzheimer’s and dementia.

Three ways to help prevent Alzheimer’s disease and dementia

Making certain lifestyle adjustments may favorably influence cognitive status. Collectively, combining the three approaches below has the potential to delay the onset of dementia based on promising research, though further studies are needed to make specific recommendations. 

1. Eating a nutritious heart-healthy, mindful diet 

Several different eating styles may offer benefits for brain health, including the Mediterranean diet and Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH). Part of their protective benefit may be due to the inclusion of anti-inflammatory and antioxidant rich foods. The Institute of Medicine, Alzheimer’s Association and American Heart Association recommend a heart-healthy diet for brain health. 

Diverse, nutrient-rich and varied anti-inflammatory foods include: 

  • Vegetables, especially green, leafy varieties
  • Fresh fruits, including citrus and berries
  • Lean poultry 
  • Seafood
  • Eggs
  • Beans
  • Nuts
  • Olive oil
  • Limited red meats and sweets

Vitamin D deficiency is a risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease. If you’re vitamin D deficient (detectable through a blood test), talk to your doctor about supplementation.

2. Engaging the brain 

Engaging the brain through cognitive stimulation is all about using and challenging the mind. This includes solitary and group activities that involve thinking, reasoning skills and activating memory. One study showed that engaging in cognitive activities during midlife was associated with a significantly reduced risk of dementia (from all causes), after adjusting for factors such as prior disease state, age, and BMI. Leisure activities, that engage the brain, may improve processing speed and benefit memory.

Here are some ways to engage the brain:

  • Discuss current events 
  • Play word games and puzzles
  • Meet with a special interest group 
  • Learn to play a musical instrument music
  • Master a foreign language
  • Participate in community cultural events
  • Make a craft or other creative, hands-on activity

3. Exercising

Regular exercise protects brain health in several ways, including reducing stress. This is vital, as chronic work-related stress has become an emerging risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease

Staying active promotes mind-body health and benefits your microbiome, or gut bacteria. This influences brain health through the gut-brain axis

Find something you enjoy that gets your heart pumping, which delays the neurodegenerative process, for whole body health. Examples could include:

  • Aerobic exercise like walking or running
  • Lifting weights
  • Playing a group sport
  • Practicing yoga, which can also help relieve stress and improve mobility

The impact of preexisting health conditions

Having preexisting conditions such as diabetes, hyperlipidemia and hypertension can increase the risk of developing dementia. Make sure your employees don’t ignore these additional warning signs and are actively working to manage them. 

Many people are unsure whether they have or might be at risk for having these conditions. Encourage them to participate in your company’s health screening event and make an appointment with their primary care physician for an annual physical.

Let’s partner to improve your employees’ quality of life

Educate your employees on participating in lifestyle activities that can decrease their risk of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia today. Encourage them to incorporate preventive measures like beginning their day with berries, eating fish two times per week, taking a brisk morning walk or downloading an app to learn a new language.

You can also partner with a Labcorp health and wellness coach to discover more ways to help your employees improve their physical and mental well-being. Now is always the best time to be proactive when it comes to preventing dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, minimizing stress and improving physical health.

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