Alzheimer's risk reducersAnyone who has seen the effects of Alzheimer’s Disease will be motivated to keep an eye on risk factors. Having risk factors does not mean you will get Alzheimer’s Disease, but having those factors can increase the chances of dealing with dementia in later life. There are many Alzheimer’s risk reducers that can be controlled.

Let’s face it: You’re not going to change all the risk factors in your life at once. So, you may want to tackle one section or even one paragraph in this article at a time. Making little but lasting changes tends to make us healthier anyway.

Risk Factors you can’t control

Aging and genetics are among the most significant risk factors. Other factors that cannot be controlled are being a woman, air pollution, and brain trauma. There’s not much we can do about those.

Other risk factors, though, can be reduced through lifestyle changes. These include obesity, diabetes, hypertension, smoking, depression, excessive alcohol use, chronic inflammation, lack of exercise, poor diet, social isolation, hearing loss (which creates social isolation), and lack of cognitive engagement.

Alzheimer’s Risk Reducers #1 – Diet

While we can’t control our age (or sometimes even act our age!) or the makeup of our DNA genetic strands, many factors in being at risk for Alzheimer’s are related to lifestyle. Everyone knows we need to eat healthier, but the latest research puts some “meat on the bones”—so to speak—of the argument for better food choices. I’ve included links to reliable sources if you read further on these topics.

Reduce the Sugar

Nearly all research shows a reduction in sugar intake lowers the risks of diabetes, heart disease, Alzheimer’s, and cancer. You have to watch out for sugar. The natural kind appears in pasta, bread, potatoes, and many fruits. Artificial sweeteners are still in the “Is it good or bad?” clinical research category. Before using artificial sweeteners or sugar alcohols, do some research to determine the benefits and drawbacks of using those sugar substitutes.

Healthy Diets

High-fat diets (especially those with high trans-fat and saturated fats) contribute to insulin resistance. They inhibit the process’s normal functioningcausing a synaptic breakdown in the brain and inflammation throughout the body.

Eliminating or cutting back on these foods can reduce joint pain and inflammation, lower blood pressure, and decrease depression. Don’t shoot the messenger, but these are foods you should probably give only to your meanest neighbors – butter, baked goods, red meat, whole milk, heavy creams, most fried foods, and ice cream. I weep even as I write this.

Vitamins & Supplements

You may be thinking, are there pills that can work as Alzheimer’s risk reducers? A few dietary supplements have shown positive results in clinical studies on fighting insulin resistance and reducing the risks of dementia. Omega 3 fatty acids/fish oils are arriving with mixed findings in the fight against diseases. However, most cultures with a longer life span, such as Asian and Mediterranean regions, eat lots of fish. It’s hard to argue with their numbers.

Studies of increased doses of Vitamin E have provided positive results for laboratory rodents. Scientists are still looking for positive results for humans—rats!

Curcumin and turmeric lower inflammation, a risk factor for healthy brain function. B Vitamins are also shown to reduce incidents of dementia.

Ginko biloba was once thought to slow cognitive decline. However, extensive group studies of several thousand people found no impact. Instead, spend your money on fish oils.

It’s a lot to take in. Don’t throw out all your dairy, butter, or the side of beef in your deep freeze just yet. But consider changing one thing at a time—work to weed out the unhealthy sugar substitutes in your diet. Take smaller portions of the foods that work against good health.

Alzheimer’s Risk Reducers #2 – Lifestyle choices

There are more ways to reduce the risks of mental decline as we get older.

Reduce Stress

According to the experts, we need to manage stress. Who are they kidding? To effectively manage stress and reduce its presence in life, we need to lock ourselves in a closet with a lifetime supply of chocolate. Stress happens. Stress will not go away even after we retire, move away from difficult people, or win the battles for better health.

The best we can do is manage our responses to stress. Everyone has a different way of coping with the stresses of life – hiding, distracting, focusing, avoiding, or comforting. 


Ten years ago, scientists discovered a fantastic brain fluid system that clears clutter away. This system is called the glymphatic system and works most efficiently while we sleep. Part of the debris that gets removed includes the beta-amyloid proteins that build up to create barriers in our mental abilities, the building blocks of Alzheimer’s Disease. Regular, restful sleep, unless done while driving or having a meaningful conversation with your spouse, can reduce stress and clear your brain of obstacles to good memory functioning.


Everyone knows that a healthy heart and arteries keep blood flowing to and from the brain. It only makes sense. Lowering cholesterol and blood pressure through diet, exercise, and medications will keep the heart and brain functioning better as we age.

Researchers and doctors recommend 30 minutes a day of moderate exercise five days a week. If that’s too much, try to exercise in fifteen-minute sessions twice daily. Moderate exercise means you can talk while working out but not sing along to your favorite workout songs. (The people at my gym are thankful for this.) Researchers are working to determine the best kinds of exercise for reducing mental decline. At present, walking seems to be the best exercise for most older people, and it often comes with incredible scenery.

Cognitive Engagement

Congratulations —if you’ve read this far, you’re using your brain to build a complex system of neural connectors. The more information connections you make, the more interactions you have with words, facts, or memories, the more likely you will be able to keep them later in life. Our brains create pathways via different routes, so if one roadway is blocked, we have access through another route. Learning the same information in multiple ways can prevent losing that information years down the road.

Internet Use

Some of the Alzheimer’s risk reducers may be surprising. Believe it or not—and I hate to say this in the presence of teenagers—spending time on the Internet reduces risk factors for dementia by about half! Internet use includes social interaction, and it helps the brain focus attention in many places at once. This may cause us to be scattered and time-wasters, but it does create stronger neural connections in the brain.

Play an Instrument

Research shows that musicians are less likely to suffer from dementia and Alzheimer’s as they age. Learning to play or have played an instrument in younger years has helped build cognitive skills that carry through as the brain ages. So pick up those drumsticks (not the poultry kind), or better yet, play the piano.

You Just Keep Thinkin!

If you’d rather not become a web surfer or take violin lessons, many brainy activities work as dementia risk reducers. Pick up a crossword puzzle book or sudoku, assemble a jigsaw puzzle, or play a strategy-based computer or card game. Some websites like Lumosity offer daily brain-strengthening activities and track your progress. Socialize with friends. Take a different route when driving. Identify 25 kinds of native birds. Learn a new hobby. Read a book! Write a book. Read a lengthy article. Highlight information in an article about Alzheimer’s Risk Reducers, send it out to eight friends, and then have conversations about the article.

All of these brain activities are part of developing your cognitive reserve, the ability of the brain to work effectively and solve problems. Cognitive reserve is what allows your brain to fight off the effects of life’s stresses and the attacks of mental deterioration. So, go back and reread this article. Take the time to look up the articles in the attached links. Hey, I’m trying to keep your mind sharp and active.

For more information on Alzheimer’s Disease, Alzheimer’s Disease Information Page

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