Everyday Habits That Reduce Your Risk of Alzheimer’s

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The dozens of choices you make over the course of any average day—ordering the curry vs. the samosas, reading the newspaper vs. watching the news—really can determine whether you’ll develop Alzheimer’s years from now as well as how quickly the disease will progress.

Did you know that eating grilled meat could increase your risk of being struck down by dementia? Or that getting on the treadmill can help keep your brain sharp? The dozens of choices you make over the course of any average day—ordering the curry vs. the samosas, reading the newspaper vs. watching the news—really can determine whether you’ll develop Alzheimer’s years from now as well as how quickly the disease will progress. There are no drugs or procedures that can cure or even effectively treat Alzheimer’s. But you have the power to outsmart this terrifying disease by combatting some of its major risk factors: diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, stress, social isolation, and sleeplessness.

Following are some everyday tasks that can reduce your risk of getting Alzheimer’s:

Enjoy coffee in the morning

Caffeine consumed too late in the day may disturb your sleep, and ultimately harm your brain. But coffee consumed in the morning and perhaps the early afternoon, depending on your personal caffeine sensitivity, may reduce risk. Coffee contains a chemical called eicosanoyl-5-hydroxytryptamide (EHT) that, in studies done on rats, has been shown to protect against Alzheimer’s disease. The caffeine itself may also be protective: Mice developed fewer tau tangles in their brains when their drinking water was infused with caffeine. In humans, Johns Hopkins researchers have shown that 200 milligrams of caffeine—the amount in one strong cup of coffee—can help us consolidate memories and more easily memorize new information.

Talk to strangers

When we’re seated next to a stranger on a bus, plane, or train, most of us clam up and keep to ourselves. Yet, research from the University of Chicago Booth School of Business has found that many of us overestimate the difficulty of connecting with strangers and underestimate the rewards of doing so. Before engaging in the study, participants predicted that engaging with strangers would reduce their well-being. But when they went ahead and struck up a conversation with the person seated next to them, the opposite happened. They felt better than when they sat in solitude.

Choose the brightest of the bunch

The pigments that lend bright colors to many fruits and vegetables are especially powerful sources of antioxidants. Higher vegetable consumption was associated with slower rate of cognitive decline in 3,718 people aged 65 years and older who participated in the Chicago Health and Aging Project. All of the study participants scored lower on cognitive tests at the end of the study than they did at the beginning, but those who consumed more than four daily servings of vegetables experienced a 40 percent slower decline in their abilities than people who consumed less than one daily serving.

Grow a garden

The physical act of pulling weeds and raking leaves raises the heart rate and strengthens muscles in your hands, arms, shoulders, back, and legs. Being outdoors and surrounded by beautiful flowers can relax the mind. Finally, gardening requires intellectual smarts to plant the right seeds in the right places at the right time of year, to prune plants when they need it, and to combat pests and other obstacles.

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