Published on: May 26, 2016
by Dayna Steele for Huffington Post:
If you’re in your 20s, you probably don’t spend much time thinking about Alzheimer’s disease. Like most people, you think it’s an old person’s illness – definitely not something you need to worry about for years to come. However, as your parents and grandparents age, odds are you will be close enough to someone with the disease to understand just how devastating it can be. Someone is diagnosed with the disease every 67 seconds.
Then there’s your own possible future with the disease. Unless you’re among the roughly 1 to 5 percent of Alzheimer’s cases that are early-onset or hereditary, research shows there are some lifestyle choices that can help protect your brain against Alzheimer’s. There are also some key steps you can take to ensure you’re as prepared as possible if it does happen. And, just as crucially, you’re in a position now to help make strides toward advances in treatment of the disease and, hopefully, a cure.
What you eat impacts a myriad of aspects of your overall health, so it’s not a huge shock that your diet may also affect your Alzheimer’s risk, even in your 20s and 30s.
Research has revealed that a heart-healthy diet may also protect your brain and a recent study showed that the MIND diet might also help prevent brain degeneration.
Yes: fish, olive oil, nuts, whole grains, and leafy greens
No: red meat, butter, sugar-sweetened foods, cheese and fried foods
You already know regular exercise can bring a whole host of benefits, from helping keep your weight in check to lowering your risk of diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and a number of other chronic illnesses. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, physical activity might also help you prevent cognitive decline. Find an activity you enjoy – bonus points if it has some mental or social stimulation built in — like hiking or walking with a friend, taking a dance class or another group workout. The more you actually like exercising, the likelier you’ll be to do it.
Roughly 50 to 70 million Americans suffer from some type of sleep disorder. Getting enough quality shut-eye is important to your overall health and may also lower your risk of Alzheimer’s disease. Research suggests that sleep disturbances may be linked to cognitive decline in older adults. Since the disease can start to develop as early as 15 years before symptoms appear, it’s crucial to build good sleep habits before that happens. Start these simple good sleep habits now:
• Calm your mind with meditation or reading
• Take a hot bath
• Ditch your phone and other electronics at least an hour before bedtime
Occasionally forgoing your daily latte, weekly happy hour or Netflix subscription might seem like big sacrifices now, but re-directing some of that extra cash into savings every month will pay off down the road. Alzheimer’s or not, it’s never too early to start putting money away for a comfortable retirement OR the care you may need later in life. Hopefully you’re already saving for retirement – and if you’re not – you really should be. If your employer offers a 401k, make sure you’re contributing the maximum, especially if they offer a company match – that’s FREE money you should always accept.
Be A Smart Advocate
Your early Reading Rainbow lessons still hold true today – knowledge is power. Educate yourself about Alzheimer’s disease now – having a better understanding of Alzheimer’s and knowing where to find the resources to deal with it will leave you better prepared for the day it hits close to home.
As common as the disease is, you don’t have to be personally touched by Alzheimer’s to spread awareness and do your part to help find a cure or new treatment options. Comedian Seth Rogen and his wife Lauren lead the non-profit Hilarity for Charity, raising money and awareness about Alzheimer’s among Millennials. The organization encourages college students to host Hilarity for Charity fundraising events at their school, with prizes going to the top-earning schools.
One last thing …
Talk to your parents about their retirement plan and savings. Ask your parents to talk to your grandparents about their retirement plan and savings. The more we all communicate about the future, the better the future will be for all of us.
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