Four Science-Backed Alzheimer’s
Disease Prevention Strategies
From the The Wisconsin Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center
Alzheimer’s disease affects more than 5 million people in the United States, including 110,000 in Wisconsin. The disease affects people across economic,
educational, social, racial, and gender lines. Age is the greatest risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease, but who and when it strikes is unpredictable.
Currently, there is no cure for Alzheimer’s disease, placing a lot of importance on prevention. Scientists have found evidence that some lifestyle changes can
delay the onset or lower risk for the disease. To help keep your mind healthy, follow these evidence-based lifestyle tips.
Exercise. Exercise offers a host of benefits throughout the body, including in the brain. At the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Dr. Ozioma Okonkwo has
conducted several studies showing exercise improves brain health and thinking skills. Any movement is beneficial, and each person should speak with their
doctor about the type of exercise that is healthy for them. In general, healthy seniors should try to get 30 minutes of moderate intensity exercise five days a week.
If you can’t fit in 30-minute bouts each day, attempt two 15-minute bouts instead. How do you know the intensity of the exercise you are doing? Try the talk test:
During light physical activity, you can easily talk and sing. When you are engaged in moderate physical activity, you can talk, but you cannot sing. During
vigorous levels of physical activity, you cannot say more than a few words without having to pause to catch your breath.
Diet. In 2015, Dr. Martha Clare Morris, Rush University, published the MIND diet for health brain aging, based on years of research into nutrition, aging, and
Alzheimer’s disease. The MIND diet emphasizes eating vegetables, nuts, fish, poultry, beans, whole grains, and berries, especially strawberries and blueberries.
The diet also recommends limiting red meat, butter and margarine, cheese, pastries and sweets, and fried foods. A study of nearly 1,000 people who followed the
MIND diet found those who closely followed the diet reduced their risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease by 53 percent. People who loosely followed the diet still
saw results, reducing their risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease by 35 percent.
Sleep. Sleep is essential to healthy living. Dr. Barbara Bendlin, University of Wisconsin-Madison, published a study last year that found people who reported more
sleepiness during the day and not feeling rested after a night of sleep showed more brain changes related to Alzheimer’s disease. Scientists are still trying to
figure out if poor sleep causes Alzheimer’s disease-related brain changes, or if the brain changes cause sleep disturbance. But it is clear there is a connection.
Aim for 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night, prioritize sleep, and start a relaxing evening routine that includes dim lights (but not smartphones, TVs, or other screens)
and peaceful thoughts.
Heart health. Scientists have long known the connection between a healthy heart and a healthy brain. When healthy blood flow to the brain suffers, so will your
memory and thinking skills. A healthy diet, exercise, and quality sleep are all beneficial to heart health. If you smoke, quit. If your blood pressure, blood sugar,
cholesterol, or Body Mass Index (BMI) are high, work with your doctor to bring these numbers down to healthy levels.
The Wisconsin Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center is focused on improving early detection of Alzheimer’s disease, identifying risk and protective factors, and
finding ways to delay onset and progression. Learn more about Alzheimer’s disease and how to get involved in research studies at www.adrc.wisc.edu. The
Alzheimer’s & Dementia Alliance of Wisconsin is a nonprofit organization that connects people with Alzheimer’s disease and their caregivers with community
support resources. Learn about living with memory loss and caregiver resources at www.alzwisc.org.
Free Public Talk about Alzheimer’s Disease and Dementia in the
African American Community
Each year during African American History Month, the Wisconsin Alzheimer’s
Disease Research Center, in conjunction with the Alzheimer’s and Dementia
Alliance of Wisconsin, hosts the Solomon Carter Fuller Community Lecture about
Alzheimer’s Disease and Memory Screening Day. This year, the event will be held
February 16-17, 2018.
Dr. Cerise Elliott, National Institutes of Health, will present “Advancing Health
Disparities Research in the African American Community” on Friday, February 16,
7:00-8:30 p.m. at Fountain of Life Covenant Church, 633 W. Badger Rd. in
Madison. Saturday's events will take place from 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. and will
include a health fair, caregiver workshop, healthy cooking demonstration, and free
confidential memory screenings at The Village on Park, 2300 S. Park St. in
Madison. All events are free and open to the public. Visit adrc.wisc.edu for more