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Steps to Help Reduce the Risk of Alzheimer's Disease

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Steps to Help Reduce the Risk of Alzheimer's Disease

How many times have you set your keys down and moments later forgotten where you’ve placed them? While forgetful moments like that happen to everyone from time to time, serious memory loss and constant confusion may be a sign something more serious is happening, such as dementia or Alzheimer’s disease.

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, more than 6 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s disease. By 2050, that number could rise to an astonishing 12.7 million. Of those with the disease, an estimated 6.7 million people are 65 and older.

Alzheimer’s disease is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States, killing more people than breast cancer and prostate cancer combined. As Alzheimer's advances through the brain, it can lead to:

  • Disorientation
  • Mood and behavior changes
  • Confusion about events, time and place
  • Difficulty speaking, swallowing and walking

While there is no cure for Alzheimer’s, you can take practical steps to lower your risk of developing the debilitating disease. Kenneth H. Cooper, MD, MPH, Cooper Aerobics President and Chairman, offers the following suggestions to incorporate into your daily life, no matter your age:

  • Engage your brain daily. Solve crossword puzzles, learn new things, play musical instruments, and improve your computer skills.
  • Exercise your body─at least 30 minutes of sustained or collective physical activity most days of the week.
  • Eat healthily following the Mediterranean diet or Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH diet). Include at least 5-10 servings of fruits and vegetables daily.
  • Control coronary risk factors and obesity. Avoid inactivity.
    • Blood pressure: less than 140/90
    • Total cholesterol: less than 200
  • Get adequate sleep, which should be at least seven hours per night.
  • Delay retirement.
  • Socialize. Join a club, church, synagogue or group, volunteer with an organization or just get out of the house.
  • Take your vitamins.
    • Omega-3─1,000 mg daily and/or consume two servings of fatty fish per week
    • Vitamin D3─at least 50 mcg (2,000 IU) daily
    • Vitamin B12─400 mcg daily
  • Use alcohol in moderation, if at all. No more than one drink per day or a total of seven drinks per week.
  • Do not use tobacco of any type.

Dr. Cooper’s recommendations are based on various studies, including the Finnish Geriatric Intervention Study to Prevent Cognitive Impairment and Disability (The Lancet, March 2015). The study followed 1,260 people ages 60 to 77 deemed at risk for dementia. The subjects followed a healthy diet, completed muscular and cardiovascular training and focused on brain training exercises for two years.

In comparison to the control group, the intervention group:

  • Scored 25% higher in testing situations
  • 83% higher in executive functioning (the management of cognitive processes, including working memory, reasoning, task flexibility and problem solving)
  • 150% higher in processing speed (the ability to automatically and fluently perform relatively easy or over-learned cognitive tasks)

A 2014 Cleveland Clinic study also found exercise countered hippocampus atrophy. Researchers credited regular exercise, specifically in those with the APOE epsilon4 allele, also known as the e4 "Alzheimer's" gene. In the study, 100 men and women ages 65-89 were divided into groups by amount of exercise.

"Those who had the gene and exercised had no shrinkage over the 18-month period,” says Dr. Cooper. “Those who had the APOE4 gene and didn't exercise had a 3% shrinkage." Dr. Cooper recommends a daily checklist for his patients, including a brain-healthy diet, supplements, lifestyle changes and exercise.

As Dr. Cooper says, “Fitness is a journey, not a destination. You must continue for the rest of your life.”

Taking control of your health and wellness early on can set the stage for your quality of life later, especially when it comes to your brain. Take the initiative now to keep brain health a top priority in order to lessen the risk of Alzheimer’s and dementia later in life.

For more information about Cooper Clinic, visit or call 972.560.2667.