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A recent study funded by the National Institute on Aging identified five healthy habits which together can drastically reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s. The study done on 3,000 aging Americans found that people who practice at least four of these five habits are 60 percent less likely to contract Alzheimer’s than people who practice one habit or less.

Researchers looked for these healthy lifestyle factors among subjects of the study:

  • Exercising 150 minutes a week: Among the benefits of staying active are improved disease management, mood, and strength. Exercising is even known to help with balance, helping to prevent falls and fractures.
  • Light-to-moderate alcohol use: Alcoholism can be particularly dangerous for elderly people. In addition to increasing the risk of Alzheimer’s, heavy alcohol use makes older people vulnerable to liver problems, high blood pressure, and heart disease.
  • Being a non-smoker: Alzheimer’s has been linked to vascular issues which can be caused by tobacco use. Smoking can also cause oxidative stress linked to the onset of Alzheimer’s.
  • Eating a high-quality diet: The NIA recommends the MIND diet, a combination of the Mediterranean and DASH diets. The MIND diet is built on foods which decrease the loss of brain function caused by aging. Staples of the MIND Diet include berries, leafy greens and fish.
  • Doing intellectually engaging activities: Reading books, playing games and making crafts are a few examples of activities that can decrease older people’s risk of Alzheimer’s.

“This population-based study helps paint the picture of how multiple factors are likely playing parts in Alzheimer’s disease risk,” said Dallas Anderson, Ph.D., program director in the Division of Neuroscience at NIA. “It’s not a clear cause-and-effect result, but a strong finding because of the dual data sets and combination of modifiable lifestyle factors that appear to lead to risk reduction.”

The NIA is funding over 230 clinical trials on Alzheimer’s and other related dementias, including 111 non-pharmaceutical trials focused on finding dementia interventions related to sleep, exercise, diet and more. Those interested in participating in an NIA funded study can find more information here.

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