With the development in recent years that the protein indicative of Alzheimer’s — amyloids — isn’t exclusive to the elderly and can actually appear in people’s brains as early as in their 20’s (yikes), many of us are left wondering how to prevent Alzheimer’s disease earlier in life rather than later. Luckily, there are numerous proven ways to delay and prevent the onset of the disease, even when unavoidable elements like aging and genetic history may not always be in your favor. Here are six tips on how you can actually “rewire” your brain’s nerve cells to keep your brain going strong for longer.
Meditation, tai chi, and other similarly relaxing, mind-clearing activities have been shown to improve cognition and rewire the brain, in a sense, according to the author of Two Weeks to a Younger Brain, Gary Small, M.D. And while meditation may be the best method of the bunch when it comes to keeping your mind young and performing at its best, any activity that reduces stress will produce a similar effect.
Maintaining a balanced diet and exercise, like with all health issues, is one of the first steps to preventing Alzheimer’s and dementia. A healthy lifestyle – particularly when combined with a varied diet, regular exercise, and no smoking – will put you at an advantage and minimize risks to your brain. For exercise, Dr. Small recommends a balance of strength training and cardiovascular exercise.
Get those omegas.
One of the key ingredients to a healthy heart and brain is sufficient intake of omega-3 fats. While most people get a regular dose of omega fats, it is too often imbalanced by an excess of omega-6’s, which are found in meat and vegetable oils, and not enough omega-3’s, which are found in fish, nuts, and flax seeds.
Okay, this is one of those tips that should more or less go without saying, but for the sake of driving the point home, we’ll reiterate it anyway. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, there’s often a correlation between head trauma and Alzheimer’s disease, especially when the trauma involves a loss of consciousness. While head injuries are often unexpected, simple preventative measures like wearing a seatbelt in the car or a helmet when riding a bike are important to keeping your brain safe from trauma-related damage.
Although no specific connection has been identified, doctors have often found that traditional social interactions, as opposed to virtual ones, lower the risk of Alzheimer’s. This is possibly because it keeps the neural connections in the brain active, and has many of the same benefits as mental stimulation. Even without that added benefit, social connections have been shown to increase empathy and communication skills and improve mood overall. Long story short? Give your phone a break and try, you know, face-to-face chats. (Major, we know.)
Stimulate your mind.
The key to keeping a brain healthier for longer can often be as simple as keeping it active. Some ways to continuously stimulate the brain are to shake up routines by rotating tasks or multitasking when possible. You can also turn to more novel methods like doing puzzles or completing brain exercises like Sodoku or crossword puzzles. Looking for something a little more involved? Take up new activities like baking, gardening, playing an instrument, or a book club. Anything that gets you to challenge your mind in new ways is key here.